In 2007, gritty British TV show Skins took both sides of the Atlantic by storm when its first season premiered.
The series quickly became infamous for its bleak storylines, graphic sex scenes, and depiction of teens actually played by teens indulging in drugs and alcohol.
The show aired until 2013 and introduced a new cast every two seasons, making it something of a revolving door for young actors looking for their big break.
And many of the cast got just that, with Skins being one of the first TV appearances for many established stars we know and love today.
Academy Award winner Daniel Kaluuya, nominee Dev Patel, and Game of Thrones Hannah Murray and Joe Dempsie are just some of the British actors to grit their teeth on the E4 series.
But in 2021, eight years after the final season aired, some of the cast began to lift the lid on their “messed up” movie experience.
April Pearson, who played Michelle on seasons 1 and 2 of Skins spoke to her fellow alumni Laya Lewis on her podcast Are you Michelle van Skins? last year.
Laya played Liv in seasons 5 and 6, and while the two women didn’t work on the show at the same time, they weren’t surprised to learn that they had incredibly similar experiences — especially when it came to the show’s high-profile sex scenes.
Both Laya and April admitted to feeling uncomfortable and unprotected during filming, saying they thought they were “too young” to strip naked on TV.
They were amateur teen actors on their first day on set, but they were expected to film intimate scenes right away and with little guidance.
Laya said on the podcast, “If you want to pick kids off the street, which is essentially what they did to make this authentic thing happen on screen, there’s got to be a little more help. Talk about things, it was just a little a lot to be scared, day one, here you are.
“There’s a difference between being old enough officially and being old enough mentally,” April agrees. I had this conversation with my husband and I said, ‘I feel like I was too young, I feel like I wasn’t protected.'”
She also suggested that what they both went through was universal to all the former Skins stars, and said every female cast member she had privately spoken to felt the same way.
“We’re talking about seven series of the same show and everyone feels the same, certainly the women and some of the men I’ve talked to feel the same,” said April, as she and Laya reflected on the fact that intimacy coordinators “have not yet been implemented on TV” and movie sets at the time Skins was in the air.
April also said that when he heard Paul Mescal say that he felt “empowered” by his sex scenes in Normal people almost made her cry, explaining: “At no point, if an interviewer had asked me, ‘How do you feel in the sex scenes of Skins?’ I would have said competent. Not really.”
And in July, Kaya Scodelario joined the conversation after she rose to fame at the age of 14 as Effy on Season 1 of Skins – a character who had the rare feat of appearing in more than two seasons.
In a TikTok video, Kaya acknowledged the constant comparisons between Skins and Sam Levinson’s HBO drama Euphoriawhich premiered in 2020 and stars Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney and Alexa Demie.
Euphoria has equally gritty storylines involving sex and drugs. But while the characters are teenagers, the actors who play them are in their early to mid-twenties and have often spoken of advocating for some of their scripted unnecessary nudity to be cut from the show.
And this age difference is in stark contrast to Kaya’s experience Skinsand she reminded herself of this in the social media upload.
In the TikTok video, the actor, now 30, filmed herself looking shocked before relaxing and shrugging, as a voiceover said, “Look Euphoria thinking for the first time, This is crazy for 17 year oldsand then I remembered what I was doing on TV when I was 14.
Kaya added in the caption: “Will always be grateful. But yeah, protection wasn’t really a thing back then…” and she said so Skins caused her long-standing “trouble” in a follow-up commentary.
A fan had asked her, “Do you think using Skins affected your mindset at that age?” and Kaya openly replied, “Yes. It was a beautiful time, but also the root cause of many of my problems now. Still, it gave me the chance to do the job I loved.”
Now Kaya’s on-screen love interest has had his say, with Jack O’Connell admitting that his experience filming sex and nude scenes for Skins “was not right.”
Jack played bad boy Cook in seasons three and four of the drama, and many of his sex scenes were with Kaya.
After his dalliance on SkinsJack continued to strip naked for his roles – even appearing completely naked on stage for the West End production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roofand expose everything in the 2013 movie Star up.
Now 32, Jack can be seen alongside Emma Corrin in the Netflix adaptation of DH Lawrence’s 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s loverand the two actors have a lot of steamy sex scenes throughout the movie and also appear completely naked on screen several times.
“If it moves the story forward, then that’s it,” Jack said in a recent interview with The Independent about his ethos of stripping naked in front of the camera. “Words along the lines of, if it can’t be avoided, just get on with it.”
But his recent experience has also encouraged Jack to reflect on his time Skinswhich he admitted was “very naive” when he started his role at the age of 17.
In fact, Jack has said that he never questioned whether he was comfortable with what he was being asked to do as Cook, and that he just blindly accepted sex and nudity as “part of being on the show.
“It’s hard to say you ever feel completely comfortable [filming sex scenes],” he began. “Listen, I admit I was very naive at the time, enough not to check in with myself and ask myself if I was comfortable or not. It just felt like an essential part of the program in a very different time than the one we are in now.”
Jack added, feeling “very compromised”. Skinsthe important thing is that everyone learns from it so that the problems do not happen again.
“You feel very compromised and if you don’t feel like you’re protected in that environment, it can be very unnecessarily discouraging,” he explained. “I think it’s important to have discussions to make sure whatever happened [on Skins] that was wrong, it seems, is addressed and not repeated.”
In addition to the awkward sex scenes, former cast members have also revealed that they were pressured to look a certain way and even encouraged to skip meals while working on Skins.
Laya recalled the female cast members lining up in their bikinis so the male showrunner could approve of their bodies before filming a swimwear scene.
“There was a point where we were told to skip breakfast and just have a baked potato for dinner,” she said in last year’s podcast. “We had to go to Morocco for the first episode of Season 6, and we all had to stand in a room one by one, in bikinis or swimwear, with just us and the creator of the show.”
“He was a man and much older than us – we were between 16 and 18 years old – and we were told if we looked good enough to film in Morocco,” Laya added. “Costume told me to go first because I’m most comfortable, to show the other girls it’s not that bad — but it sucked.”
“At the time I thought it was terrible,” she concluded. “But I think it’s so much damn worse now.”
April replied: “At that moment you are young and you don’t know any better. You don’t really know what to say, speak up, is this okay? … And like many trauma victims, you look back and think, Yeah, that sucked.”
Skins was created by father and son Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain, and in response to the podcast episode, Bryan’s rep previously said in a statement: “We are deeply and unequivocally sorry that any cast member felt uncomfortable or disrespected in their job during their time up Skins. We are committed to continually developing safe, reliable and enjoyable working conditions for everyone working in the TV industry.”