Man this year has flown by. I feel like I was just at Sundance watching Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes. We ran my interviews with director Francesca Gregorini and star Alfred Molina at the beginning of the year. Now the film is on VOD under the new name The Truth About Emanuel, and coming to theaters on January 10.
Kaya Scodelario plays Emanuel, the daughter of a single father (Molina) because her mother died in childbirth. She’s rebellious, but agrees to take a job babysitting for her new neighbor Linda (Jessica Biel), when she finds out something very strange about Linda’s baby. I got to speak with Scodelario by phone after returning from Sundance, since we didn’t connect in Park City.
We still want to preserve spoilers, so some of this reads vague, but if you watch the movie you’ll know what scenes we’re talking about.
CraveOnline: As soon as I started watching the film and heard your opening monologue, I felt like I knew this girl. What was your way into Emanuel?
Kaya Scodelario: For me, it was so well written, like you say about the monologue. I was very captivated by that after reading the first page. You don’t really get that very often with scripts. You have to give it 10, 15, 20 pages before you can really understand what’s going on. I thought with this, within the first five minutes of sitting down and reading it, I understood it. I really wanted to make the words come to life because I’d genuinely never read a script so beautifully written before. That’s really what pulled me towards it I think.
When you read the script and you got to the point where we find out exactly what Linda is doing with her baby, what were your thoughts then?
I was told about it before. I’d actually watched a documentary about it a couple of weeks beforehand, so I knew it wasn’t some crazy idea that everyone would be like, “Well, that’s really unrealistic” because I knew it was something that could happen. And actually, a quite interesting subject matter, so for me I really wanted to know more. I wanted to explore it more. I thought it was beautifully written, the way we discover it and yet we still do go along with it in the story. That was just quite hard to try and think how you’re going to play that because you’d think that you’d react in a manner of wanting to scream and shout and run away, but I like that Francesca had created enough of a bond between them beforehand for Emanuel to stay there and want to protect her.
Both Emanuel and Linda are dealing with their own grief, which is a subject that really appeals to me. Do you feel that makes really good drama?
I think really good drama comes down to real human emotion. That’s what makes us all tick and that’s what I’ve always been drawn to when it comes to scripts is real human emotion and dealing with that. I find that all very fascinating, the human psyche. I lost my father a couple years ago so to me it was still quite raw, that feeling of grief. I’ve never really had it challenged that way before in a script. I’d never done a job where I had to really focus on that, so to me it felt like it came at the right time in my life and it was something I really wanted to explore and see where it would go on screen.
Was it a process of tattooing the name on your arm every day?
It was really simple. I’ve got six real tattoos and I kind of felt it was going to be so annoying having to put it on every day, but it was actually very simple. It was just a simple transfer like you get when you’re a child where you just wet them down and place them on the skin and peel it back, and then it just stays on your skin.
Emanuel is very clever and she’s very funny when she lashes out at people, but that cleverness puts a wall up. What was your take on her humor?
I think that’s really interesting. I think a lot of people when they don’t quite fit in in the world use humor to combat that and to find their place in society. I feel like that’s what she was about, but again I think most of the time she’s just being quite honest. Because she’s being so honest and so blunt, it came out quite funny. A lot of us didn’t expect it. When we were watching the screening and hearing the laughing, we were quite taken by surprise how much the dark humor did really come across because for me it was more about just playing it honestly and not trying to be funny. I don’t particularly find myself funny at all anyway, so I definitely wasn’t trying to play a comedic part. I think that kind of honesty especially from a young girl can be seen as quite funny and that’s just how it happens to come out.
What were some of the difficult scenes? Were they the scenes at the dinner table, making her father tell the birth story, or scenes in Linda’s house?
It depends what you mean by difficult. I think emotionally I’d say interesting rather than challenging was probably the graveyard scene and the scene with Alfred [Molina]. The scene with Alfred was tough purely because I just wanted to watch him. He was so amazing when we were doing that scene I kind of lost myself and I just wanted to watch him because he really hypnotizes me in that way. He’s the only actor I’ve ever really had that with. So that was a challenging thing for me personally to try and stay in the zone and try not to just watch this brilliant actor doing his thing.
As far as scary challenging, it would probably have to be the underwater stuff because that was something I’ve never done before whatsoever. Never been scuba diving or snorkeling or anything like that, so to be 20 feet deep underwater, in a foreign country, without your mum, in the pitch black, freezing cold was the hardest couple of days for me. But, I think they come across so beautifully that I’m glad that we did it and did it properly.
We spoke with Alfred and he told us that acting is fun, even when it’s painful scenes like the birth story, that it doesn’t have to actually be painful. Did you ever talk to him about that?
Yeah, Alfred is amazing. Every time I see him, I just want to cuddle him because he’s the best person to get cuddled from. He’s just lovely and wholehearted and I think possibly the nicest actor I’ve met on my little journey. He just really made me feel safe and welcome. He just kept the mood so light the whole time and that’s so important I think, especially when you’re doing a low budget project. Everyone’s quite stressed, they’re doing very long hours and your’e trying to get everything done. If you have someone like Alfred on set who’s just laughing throughout the whole day, it really does lift the mood. He taught me that, that it’s important to have a bit of fun with the crew members and keep it lighthearted, and it helps the day go along quicker.
What did you do after Emanuel?
I just finished shooting a TV show for a channel over here, a four part drama directed by Sean Durkin, who was massive at Sundance a few years ago. It was really cool to be able to talk to him about what the experience was going to be like, and he’s such an exciting young director that has such a different vision from everyone else, I kind of want to carry on doing that, working with exciting people that are trying to do things a little bit differently and pushing the boundaries of everything.
I hadn’t heard that Sean Durkin was doing a TV show, let alone in the U.K. What’s that called?
It’s called “Southcliffe.” It’s a thriller for a channel called ITV over here.
What do you get to play?
I don’t know how much I can say about it. I don’t think they’ve had a press release, but it’s set in a very small town in England where a tragedy occurs. It’s how different families and different people involved deal with that tragedy. Sean Harris is the lead in it and he’s an amazing actor. My part is quite small but it was one of those that you’re on set and you just feel like you’re part of something really cool.
One of your first roles was in Moon. What was your experience on that film?
It was amazing. I was only 14 at the time and it was only the second audition I’d ever been to, and I didn’t want to go to the audition. My mom actually really convinced me to go because I was really nervous. It was an American accent. I’d only ever done “Skins” which was the show I started on. I was quite terrified of it all. I was a very self-critical 14-year-old. So we went down and met Duncan Jones and he was amazing. He was very warm and very kind.
I was only on set for a couple of weeks but it was just really interesting to see a film being made. It’s such a different vibe. The sets were incredible and there was a giant spaceship. I got to meet Sam Rockwell who at the time I didn’t really know. I just thought, “Oh, this guy’s really lovely. He’s very nice, polite and nice to my mom.” Now looking back on it I’m like, “Oh my God, that was Sam Rockwell.”
What was your experience on the huge budget Clash of the Titans?
Very different. Very, very different. I felt like a tiny little fish in a gigantic sea. It was great to see how it was done and the costumes were beautiful. The setup was amazing, but I think it really taught me to appreciate little films and to appreciate a director who loves the project they’re doing and people that are involved in something because they really want to make something that interests them or that challenges them, and not necessarily just to make a lot of money. It’s a completely different world I feel and I was still only 16 at the time so it was quite overwhelming to me, but it made me miss being on a tiny set with a small crew and no trailers, eating fish and chips.
How do you look back on “Skins?”
“Skins” was the university for me. It was the best years of my life really. We were all just a bunch of friends. At the time, we were all just a group of eight kids that had been given this amazing opportunity and we really wanted each other to do well. We really supported each other and we just wanted to have fun and make the most of it. We still all keep in touch now, and we try and meet up every month all together. It was great. Those are some of the strongest friendships that I have now.
Did you ever see the American version of “Skins?”
I saw one episode. I was on holiday in Jamaica with two of the other girls from the cast. It was American MTV on and we started watching it, and it came on out of nowhere. We weren’t expecting it, and we were so freaked out about it that we had to switch it off halfway through because we just couldn’t. It was too much of a headfuck for us. It was just too strange to see Americans playing our parts. It was such a different feel. I think they bleeped out the swearing as well which is a bit like, okay, what’s the point of that?