Exclusive: “Skins” boss Jamie Brittain talks series 5, his legacy and leaving the series he co-created

When I sat down with Skins boss Jamie Brittain after the conclusion of series five, I hoped to chat with him about the overtly queer nature of the show’s third generation, but in typical Skins-writer fashion, he turned the story on its head. After five years of writing and helming the award-winning teen drama, Jamie Brittain announced to me that he is leaving the show he helped his father co-create. I met the news with a mixture of wailing and teeth-gnashing, but when I finally pulled myself together, Jamie talked to me about series five, about the responsibility of writing gay characters, and about the legacy he hopes he’s leaving behind.

AfterEllen: Congratulations on the success of the fifth series, Jamie! I thought it was amazing!
Jamie Brittain: Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s been pretty well received, I think. We set out to do something distinct and different, and I think though that was a bit of a risk, we’ve just about pulled it off.

AE: There was a definite Skins feel to the fifth series, but I think you’re right — there was something fresh and distinct happening there too. It was certainly a lot less bleak than series four. Was that on purpose?

JB: Yes, and it was very much a personal ambition of mine to try and be funnier and lighter. I stand by series 4 and the scripts I wrote for it, but I wanted, for various reasons, to go in the opposite direction for this series. Little, sweet, funny stories about teenagers. That’s what I was after.

AE: Yeah, this series was definitely the funniest one yet. David Blood — just thinking about him right now makes me laugh so hard. I loved the reveal that Grace is his daughter.
JB: Monica Padrick, who writes for US Skins, emailed me to say that she thought David Blood was too young to have a teenage daughter. I had to tell her that Chris just looks very youthful — he’s actually in his late 30s. David Blood is a good laugh, and Chris is brilliant. I met him at an awards show and offered him a part on the spot.

AE: What was your favorite episode of this series?
JB: Six, I think. Alo. Just because I think it’s the funniest episode of Skins we’ve ever done, but it’s also really truthful and sad. And it is the product of three great young talents: Dan Lovett, who wrote it — his first tv script ever. Jack Clough, who directed it, and Will Merrick, who knocked his performance out of the park. All are so young, and so talented. I’m massively proud of them all.

AE: Where did you film Alo’s episode? I want to live there.
JB: The farm was between Bristol and Bath. We all fell in love with the location.

AE: If I move there, I wonder if I can have the Skins production team come in and cross-process the sky for me every morning. Actually, I don’t think I could live there at all after seeing what happened to Alo’s poor cow.
JB: Yeah. How mental was that? Dan Lovett comes up with s–t like that before breakfast. Honestly one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. I think the dubstep “ultra-wank” may be the stupidest and funniest scene ever in Skins.

AE: Jesus. That banana!
JB: That was Cathy Barry, with the banana. She’s a Bristol porn-actress and friend of the show. Chris shagged her in an online episode we did. Don’t know if you remember that one.

AE: Wow, I did not put that together! Good callback. And, of course, Asian Fanny Fun made a return.
JB: Yes. That great Skins institution — Skinstitution? — Asian Fanny Fun.

AE: OK, I have to ask you about the queer sensibility of this series. What I love about Skins, what I have always loved about Skins, is that no character — regardless of gender or sexuality — is box-able.
JB: That’s pretty much the point of the show!

AE: I don’t know if it was the chemistry of these actors or what, but it seemed like anyone could hook up at any time. I watched the finale with a good friend, and about halfway through it she was like, “I’m pretty sure this is going to end in an orgy.”
JB: [laughs] Yes, there’s certainly a lot of chemistry flying about!

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