If you’re a Skins fan and I say "Dynamic Duo," your mind immediately jumps to Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain — maybe because those are the first names you see when you’re sitting slack-jawed in front of your television at the end of every episode. Bryan and Jamie are the masterminds behind E4′s award-winning teen drama. They created it. They write for it. They even help choose casts and costumes and soundtracks.
The good thing about having your name on the title card at the end of every episode is that everyone knows who to thank for making their imaginations a richer place. The bad thing about having your name on the title card at the end of every episode is that everyone knows who to abuse when something happens they don’t like.
Jamie Brittain took an exceptional beating — even from me — during the last series of Skins, after the death of a main character shocked fans. But Jamie is no Dr. John Foster wielding a baseball bat — though he does admit to an uncanny resemblance to Wolverine. ("Truly," he says, "the beardless are the last social taboo.")
During our interview this weekend, he made me swoon, made me sigh, and made me spit Vitamin Water all over my keyboard. We talked about creating beloved characters, killing beloved characters, marketing Skins action figures, what to expect from the next generation, and why he really does love Naomily.
Skins writing team (L to R): Jamie Brittain, Lucy Kirkwood, Ben Schiffer, Daniel Kaluuya and Toby Welch
AfterEllen: I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I think Skins is better than any show on TV in America or in the UK. How did the concept originate? And how did you plan to distinguish it from the millions of other teen shows out there?
Jamie Brittain: I wrote a short story when I was 16 called Machina. It was terrible, adolescent guff but it had three characters in it who I liked — Sid, Tony and Michelle. And though the story was crap I occasionally read it over the years and always thought that there might be some future in these characters. So when Dad [Skins co-creator Bryan Elsley] asked me to help him come up with a new show, my thoughts immediately sprung to those characters.
I love teen drama, and have watched pretty much all of them. But in the UK (and the US to a lesser degree), many TV shows seemed to patronize their teenage characters with an adult drawn version of their lives — with s–tty dialogue, crap soundtracks and actors pushing 30. US telly is still particularly bad about that.
AE: I agree. Every actor on 90210 looks 45.
JB: My idea was to start fresh, to involve young people from the start, and to present teenagers as fully-rounded characters with complex emotional lives. Plenty of shows have done that before — Buffy, My So Called Life — but not really on UK telly.
So once we had that, Bryan filled in the gaps with his experience and we put the show together. The one character per episode thing was completely stolen from Lost, which I was addicted to at the time.
AE: Jack Thorne told me you are Sid. Is there any truth to that?
JB: Yep, totally. Except when I was a teenager, I had even less sex than he did. But then again, Tony is me too. And Effy.
AE: Well Effy had enough sex for all of us.
AE: Are those three the characters you relate to most?
JB: Well, like I say, they’re all facets of me. Sid is the anxious nerd, Tony the smart bastard and Effy the mentally ill weirdo.
AE: Would you say you projected your hotness onto the Stonems?
JB: None of my hotness went into the Stonems. I think that would have been too much to handle.
AE: Yeah, Effy and Tony are unsightly. No one lusts after them.
JB: Absolutely. Ugly bastards. It’s no surprise that Nick (Nicholas Hoult) has been cast as ‘Beast’ in X-Men.
That’s actually awesome, by the way. I can say I’ve met Hank McCoy.