Hiya, Kaya! 15 minutes with the winning Ms. Scodelario

Bad news: You have until today to see Kaya Scodelario’s American big screen debut, The Truth About Emanuel, at the Gaslamp. The good news is you can watch it tonight on VOD.

The camera loves Kaya Scodelario, and in return she’s favored audiences with some of the most commanding small screen closeups of recent vintage. I’m old enough to be Kaya’s fath…brother. A guy my age with so many movies to watch has no business being sucked in by any TV show, first and foremost the wildly popular E4 teen drama, Skins. Needless to say I’ve seen every episode.

Back in high school, three friends and I would pull out a battered deck of cards and play a few hands of crazy eights during our lunch break. One of my fellow card sharks must have had a lazy tongue because for some long forgotten reason, the name of the game somehow managed to morph into “Ka-Ya.”

Flash forward 30-something years. It’s the birthday of John Laftsidis, the only one of my former lunch mates who I’m still in touch with. Because I’m too cheap to buy a card, I Google “Ka-Ya” in hopes that something funny turns up to send him. Interspersed between pictures of Bob Marley — I sent John a link to his song, “Kaya,” the year before — are images of this beautiful, incredibly evocative face wearing a cigarette and gallons of badly applied mascara.

I had to know more and wind up tracking down every season of Skins. That’s how “Ka-Ya” eventually led me to Kaya.

Do I risk sharing this admittedly sappy and sentimental anecdote? Kaya will either find it endearing or clam up tighter than Effy on the first season of Skins. Let’s begin with her reaction to my tale of Junior year whimsy.

Kaya Scodelario (Laughing): That’s brilliant. That’s got to be one of the best stories I ever heard.

Scott Marks: It took weeks to arrange this interview. You’re harder to track down than a laugh in an Adam Sandler picture.

KS (Laughing): Very funny.

SM: I was told you were in Africa over the holidays. Was it work or were you there on vacation?

KS: In Africa?

SM: That’s what the publicist’s email said.

KS: I was up the coast of Africa in a place called the Canary Islands. I was there with my mom. I took her away for a couple of months. It was just me and her doing something a little bit different on Christmas.

SM: How nice. Growing up, what kind of films did you watch?

KS: I was really into watching films that I wasn’t supposed to be watching. I lovedBoogie Nights growing up and Face/Off and things like that. I just found movies interesting. The first film that really impacted me was Kids, which I guess was the Skinsof its generation. It really affected me. That one made me want to tell stories and understand the power of film.

SM: You were 14 when the casting call for an inexperienced actor to star in a new series called Skins. How did you happen upon the show?

KS: I was walking home from school and they were having an open audition. I thought I’d have a look because I always wanted to act, but I didn’t know how you do that. It seemed like it was out of my reach. The director saw me outside and he came over and asked if I would audition. And I did. And I got extremely lucky.

SM: For the first season of Skins you play a near catatonic mute who handily steals every scene she’s in. At what point in the proceedings did you learn that the writers were going to ax every character save Effy?

KS: For a long time I didn’t think it was going to happen. I thought it was just going to end. My mom told me it was going to happen and I thought that she was just saying that to keep me happy so I wouldn’t cry. (Laughing.) It wasn’t until they started auditioning people that I realized it was serious. For a long time I thought my mother was just bullshitting me so I wouldn’t get depressed.

SM: What do you credit with Effy’s enormous appeal?

KS: She’s one of those girls who didn’t fit in but who still has the confidence to be happy with who she is. In England that was a big thing at the time. We had the student riots because they raised the fees at the university and there were all these kids running around that didn’t know what they were supposed to do. In America you had beautiful blonde cheerleaders who were good in school, something we couldn’t really relate to as much. I thinkSkins changed that a little bit.

SM: At the risk of sounding like a reporter from Tiger Beat, will there be a Skins movie?

KS: I don’t know. I feel that it’s kinda wrapped up. We did a final two-part mini-film…


KS: You are a fan.

SM: Of course.

KS: It was such an important time for everyone back then that I don’t know if it would work anymore.

SM: I’ve read that you were the subject of bullying growing up and suffered from low self-esteem on account of it. Welcome to the club.

KS (Laughing): Exactly!

SM: How do you deal with fame and the constant recognition it brings?

KS: I don’t deal with it. You just make it a thing. It doesn’t define you as a person. I go to the same pubs, I have the same friends, I do the same day to day things. I’m not afraid to go out without makeup. Once you start thinking of yourself as famous, that’s when it can start to affect you. It’s a really difficult question. There’s a part of every job that you don’t like and there’s a part where you just have to get on with it. I’m lucky enough to have a job that I love ninety percent of. I can’t really complain.