by Vikki Littlemore
at University of Chester
03rd February 2011 01:32:32
The new series of Skins, actor Sean Teale tells me, will be both a continuation of the Skins tradition, and an independent entity. He explains that while the team is keen to keep the new series in line with what fans love and expect from Skins, it is also important to make each generation a new and original concept. Great effort has been put into this series to ensure that it does not merely replicate what has gone before, but to progress and create something independent of its past.
Sean, who plays cock-of-the-school Nick Levan, describes the difficult and unique position the Skins cast find themselves in, stuck between staying within the boundaries of the Skins legacy, and also ensuring that each series is fresh and new, and not repetitive. It sounds like a lot of pressure.
He describes how the process of open auditions means that the actors who eventually play the parts are the absolute ‘crop of the crop’ and the absolute best because they ‘fought their way to the top.’ The process is open to anybody, so the parts don’t automatically go to the traditionally trained drama school students, but rather realistic, down-to-earth kids who are believable to the audience. “It was a conscious decision, to make it more real and relatable to fans, and it paid off because every single one of us gave it a 100% and we really nailed it,” he said.
The cast hasn’t seen the end product yet, they’ll have to wait eagerly until it airs on E4, like the rest of us. However, Sean gave his fellow cast-members an excellent review; “I haven’t seen the end result, but having seen the rest of my co-workers, I can vouch for them and say that they were brilliant.”
I asked whether he feels Skins represents teenage life in a realistic way, and he explained how the show’s foundation is to link with reality but to extend from it; “It’s Skins, it’s got to be real and gritty and fresh. It’s heightened for dramatic purpose. I think it lost its way with the second group, by the fourth series it was dark and un-relatable. This is more like the realism of the first two. If something bad does happen it makes it all the more poignant. If it’s continually shocking then it loses the effect.”
“The fun of it is that it does it in way that’s believable. You look at it and say “God, I wish I could do that”, as opposed to ‘that would never happen”. Sometimes you see a film and think; “Okay, you’ve just jumped out of a plane, landed on a car and you’re still alive; Rubbish!”, but with Skins, you might find yourself at an incredible party somewhere in an underground car park, and instead of thinking that it would never happen, you wish it did.’ Being relatable but being exciting at the same time.”
We discussed the original cast, and the fact that Nicholas Hoult and that first set of Skins teenagers have left such a lasting impression in our minds. Like the fans, the new cast is aware of the shoes they’re stepping into; “We have big shoes to fill. You have to compromise with being in the Skins tradition and what created this cult and fan base, but you’ve got to remain new and different. The writing, specifically, is just amazing and they come up with different characters which are so essentially different and have different issues and different relationships. There were so many things that they wanted to do but there was something similar in a previous series. We have to still be ‘Skinsy’ but make a path of our own. There are no ties with the previous characters. We never wanted people to think it was the third part of a trilogy. We are our own group. Don’t judge us on what you’ve seen before, judge us on what you’re about to watch. We all want to do well, we want to the show to do well, we want to win things. We want people to say these kids are doing well. It was always cutting edge and we don’t want people to think it’s the same as before.”
“It’s massive pressure. I care about what the fans think and how they feel towards us and the show, and I hope we don’t let them down. It’s a big task, we all improved over the series. We all get more comfortable on camera. We’ll only know whether we’ve achieved it when we get the response of the fans.”
Sean’s character, Nick Levan, is a sporting hero and has the most beautiful girl in school on his arm. “There are things I could relate to with Nick. If I couldn’t then I wouldn’t be where I am. I can relate to his competitive attitude and sporty side and certain characteristics, but there are massive differences, which really gives me the chance to work and truly act. We understand them, which is why we can relate to them, but we’re not playing ourselves on camera. I like Nick, he has an amazing arc as a character, which will change the conceptions of what he is.”
Viewers of Skins will remember that each episode focuses on one character in depth, so that that character comes to the foreground and the audience learn about them as the centre of the story for that week. The cast don’t have the scripts in advance, they only learn about their characters as they film each episode, as the series progresses. Sean had to wait for Nick’s episode to really learn about the character he was playing; “Nick’s personal episode is episode 5, so we’d filmed half a series before I really knew much about him. It’s difficult, because I didn’t know how Nick should be reacting to the characters around him. I had no knowledge of him, which made it harder. It would have been helpful to have a back-story. He’s the kind of character who people make a lot of pre-conceptions about. At first I thought he was a two-dimensional jock, sport captain, going out with the hottest girl in school. As the story progresses, it all just goes so horribly wrong, the story and himself, it rips apart and shreds it all away until he finds himself. The series is about us becoming Skins characters. We’re not like the original characters, who were already a close group of friends from the beginning, we have to find our way over the whole series. There a fair few surprises in this series, it’s kept exciting. We all go through transitions and find our way. We’re not a group at first, it’s a story about becoming friends and bonding together.”
Unfortunately, he was tight lipped about any specific plot details; ‘I don’t want to give anything away, I can’t actually. All the characters go through transitions, have to, throughout the series. There’s a lot to Nick, a lot of depth to him, and it’s still not explained, not even I know. It was a fun, exciting part to play.’
Finally, I asked Sean about the rumour about a Skins film with characters from each previous series. He was equally tight-lipped; “We’ve been kept in the dark about this. I can’t really comment, sadly enough. I’ve heard a few things, but nothing which I can express, because it’s jumping around so much, ideas are being thrown around, so I don’t want to get people’s hopes up and then it turn out I’m wrong.”
So not ruled out then! It looks like there’s a lot to look forward to.