Wonderland chatted to the Skins Fire actress before she had us re-glued to our TV screens.
This interview first appeared in Issue 31 of Wonderland, Sept/Oct 2012
While most of her contemporaries were filling out their UCAS forms – yawn – Kaya Scodelario was studying at her own division of the university of life – aka the set of Skins. Not content with stealing the hearts of half of teendom playing that show’s most memorable bad girl, she’s fast becoming one of the UK’s most promising young actors, taking her talent for trouble to the big screen, where she undoubtedly belongs.
Playing tween femme fatale Effy in Skins, Kaya Scodelario seemed wise and wicked beyond her fourteen years. Later, in Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights (2011), she smoldered her way through one of the most heartbreaking dramas in literary history with impressive gravitas, given that at that point she was only just old enough to get into a nightclub. In the flesh, at 20, however, Scodelario feels somehow more youthful than she does onscreen. She’s tomboyish, open, chatty – and unlike many actors has no apparent wish to control her image: what you see is what you get.
Scodelario’s difference to her screen personas is a testament [to the talent of the London-born star, who joins fellow precocious talent Dakota Fanning this September in Now Is Good, playing feisty best friend to Fanning’s spirited young cancer sufferer Tessa. Scodelario’s rebellious, impetuous Zoey encourages Tessa to live her short life to the full, having sex and taking drugs. It’s another “troubled” role for the star. “I seem to be drawn to that sort of stuff,” she tells us. “I think directors think I’m a bit fucked up!”
Scodelario’s exotic looks come from her Brazilian mother and English father, who left when she was one year old and died in 2010. After growing up in a council house with her mother in London, the actress now lives in Manchester, home to boyfriend Elliott Tittensor (Shameless) and regularly visits family in both Brighton and Brazil.
As anyone who’s seen Kaya’s frank Twitter feed will guess, she’s something of an interviewer’s dream, sharing her honest thoughts on everything from her relationship with Tittensor to snogging Billie Piper in True Love. Wonderland has never before been the bearer of a celebrity marriage proposal, but there’s always a first time for everything, right?
Is it fair to say you grew up on screen?
Skins was like our University experience. It was fun and crazy and dramatic and terrible but I wouldn’t swap it for anything. They wanted us to be real kids going through those things. Everyone was falling in love for the first time or having their heart broken or having family problems or leaving home. It was a way of understanding all the shit going on in our lives. We were like, ‘It’ll be OK in the end, ‘cos in the end of this episode, it’s fine!” And Effy holds a special place in my heart. She’s coming back, we are doing a final episode next year.
It must have been a contrast working with Dakota Fanning on Now Is Good…
Dakota is probably the most professional person I’ve ever worked with. She knows all her lines, she’s there on time every day and she’s fully prepared. I really respect that but I really need the social side as well. I think I’d go crazy if I was working constantly. But filming Now Is Good was a great experience. I got to wear some really cool outfits and run around Brighton, one of my favourite places in the world. All my family live on the South Coast so they got to come down and watch me film. My Nan is in the back of shot. We’re on the pier and she’s behind, hobbling along!
And you’ve just filmed Paul Abbott’s thriller Twenty8k…
Yes, I like Paul a lot and I got to work with someone I really admire which is Kierston Wareing. The way she can be so dramatic and put herself in such a depressing state and really break herself down, I think that’s really brave and seems to be something she can do really easily.
Is that something you feel you can do?
Yeah, I try to get into the head of the character. If I’m on screen or in a character I find it a lot easier to cry than I would in real life. I was the shyest person ever in school but the one thing that I would always put my hands up for was acting things. It was never about showing off but it just felt comfortable whereas social situations didn’t.
Did you feel comfortable filming in LA for Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes with Jessica Biel?
LA is crazy. You get there and think, wow, England’s tiny, our industry is so small compared to theirs. It was great, I got to learn to do an American accent. Jessie was gorgeous and she’s engaged to Justin Timberlake – when I was 10 years’ old he was my life! I was freaking out the moment I saw her.
Did you get to meet Justin?
I went to his house for his birthday! It was incredible but just one of those moments where I needed to ring someone and say, “AAAARGH! Guess where I am right now?” Yeah I rang everyone. I rang my Mum.
When you’re not working, what’s a typical day for you?
God, I’m so lazy! We live in Heywood in Manchester where there isn’t a thing to do. Farmland. I live with my boyfriend, his twin brother and two of his friends so it’s a very male house, I get on better with boys than girls. We’re very chilled. We play Mario Kart, we go sit on a field to have a drink and talk. I love to cook, it’s how I connect with my Brazilian roots. Elliott bought me a pressure cooker recently which I’m really excited about but also really freaked out by. If he gets me a Hoover for Christmas I’ll kill him!
You’re a fan of music festivals, aren’t you?
I love festivals. I love the idea of being in a crowd, feeling like everyone’s watching the same thing, feeling the same thing. I went to Glastonbury when I was 16 and it was like a religious experience. I can’t remember most of it but I know it was really, really good. I love live music, I’d much rather go to a pub to see a live band than a club.
Are you feeling a bit clubbed out?
Yeah definitely. We did a lot in Bristol before we were even legally allowed to! The clubs in Bristol were amazing. There was a drum’n’bass club and they never ID’d anyone which is why we all went. It was a complete shithole but we all loved it, it became a tradition for the Skins cast and crew at the end of the week we’d all go down there, fill up the place and dance ‘til 6am.
When you’re out and about, do you get approached by fans?
When Skins was on TV, a lot more. I think the boys had it worse, boys don’t like boys that are successful. They can be really violent. But [with] the lesbian storyline with Lily [Loveless] and Kat [Prescott], they had so many young girls come up to them and say because of them they had the courage to come out. You look at things like that and that’s gotta outweigh all the negative stuff by a mile.
Which neatly brings us to your lesbian role in TV’s True Love with Billie Piper…
Ah, yes, well done! I planned that. It was all improvised, there’s no script. You hear about me and Billie’s storyline and think, “Oh, lesbians,” but it’s not about that, it’s about the connection of two people. Yes there’s an age difference, yes they’re the same sex but you don’t focus on that. It was me wanting to push myself, having to tell my Nan that I was playing a lesbian. She was actually really cool about it. I was like, “Go on Nan!”
How was it with Billie?
it was weird the first day because the first album I bought was hers, when I was about 10 years old! But she’s a beautiful woman obviously so it isn’t difficult to have to understand why someone would fancy her. She’s very intelligent, knows the industry really well and was good for advice.
OK quick quiz time. Where do you think you will be in ten years?
I’d like to be able to get my Mum a nice house, she lives in council flat right now. And I’d like to be married. [Dramatically] Elliott Tittensor: Marry me!
As an actress, do you ever feel your looks can work against you as well as for you?
I’ve never thought of myself as the pretty girl. There are lot of actresses who will only go up for parts where they have to look pretty. I would happily shave my head for a role, I’d happily burn my face if I had to. I’ve never been a girly girl. I’m not delicate in any way.
How would you describe your style?
Camden Market is my shrine of fashion, I like mixing and matching. I love being from London. You walk around Soho and you’ll see ten different looks, someone wearing a binbag but they still look cool. I dyed my hair purple last week and got a bollocking, my agent nearly killed me!
Denim or leather?
Acting or Modelling?
Acting, definitely 100%.
Britain or Brazil?
Oh you can’t do that! Oh no! Brazil. There’s a beautiful energy, music, life good food, good conversation, being on a beach… and the weather!
An Arnold Schwarzenegger movie or EastEnders?
ARRGH!! This is horrible! [squeals]. Arnie. I love him so much. I turn into a six year old every time I think of him. He made me want to get into films.
Do you fancy him?
No – in True Lies he looked hot. I would have then. But not now! No no no no no.
Ever met him?
No. I would actually die. I don’t like thinking about it now, I get excited. I found out he was following me on Twitter and I screamed the house down. Elliott was like, “Who died? What’s happened? “I was like, “Arnie’s folllowing me!”. I was crying and everything, I’m so obsessed.
Did you message him?
Yes. I said, “I love you.” I think I just kept it at that, nice and simple.
Did he reply?
Words: Anna Smith
Images: Mark Kean
Fashion: Julia Sarr-Jamois