“Skins” boss Jamie Brittain talks generation three, Katie Fitch action figures, and why he loves Naomily

AE: What’s your favorite Naomily scene?
JB: I love the cat flap scene from Naomi’s episode because it’s gorgeous. And it’s soundtracked by Grouper, who is a genius.

AE: I want to talk about Lily Loveless and Kathryn Prescott for a minute. What they brought to Naomi and Emily still boggles my mind a little bit. It feels like the perfect storm of acting and writing.
JB: Yes, I agree. Lily is super-smart, which is important to the character. But she’s also incredibly soulful and emotional. That dichotomy between head and heart is vital and she got it just right.

AE: Every time Lily cries, I find myself bawling. It’s the weirdest reaction. I’m like, "Make it stop!"
JB: Yeah, me too, it breaks your heart!

Kat has a sweetness and a purity to her too, just like Emily, and a beauty that isn’t easy to define, but is obviously there. You’re just drawn to her.

AE: So, just like their characters!
JB: Well, they are. All our actors are like their characters at least a bit, because we match the actor to the character and the modify the scripts to their own personalities. The actors will always say that they’re not really like their characters, but they really are — not necessarily in actions or even personality, but in fundamental essence.

AE: Maybe that’s part of the authenticity of Skins. I feel like we, as an audience, were lucky that Lily and Kat found the courage to be so vulnerable with one another. The lake scene in Naomi’s episode is obviously a fan favorite for that reason, but I think it has less to do with sex and less with the lesbian thing, and more to do with the "love is love is love" thing.
JB: Yes, I agree.

AE: Do you identify with Naomi or Emily at all?
JB: Both of them. I’ve been both of them at some point in my life.

AE: It’s not easy to be either one of them!
JB: No!

AE: I really loved the final Naomi and Emily scene in series four. I felt like the reveal that Naomi had loved Emily since she was 12 was perfect. It added such a beautiful layer to their relationship.
JB: I love it too. It’s kind of sad, and it’s kind of beautiful: that Naomi has been trying to work out what that love is for 6 years.

AE: When you started working on series three, there was no pressure from Naomily fans because there was no such thing as Naomily. But when it came time for series four, there was a full-blown cult. Did that change the way you wrote them?
JB: It didn’t, and I think that pissed some people off. We continued the story in exactly the way we wanted. A lot of people were telling me that they didn’t want Emily and Naomi to split up or be unhappy because it would set a bad example to young gay people, which to be honest I didn’t have much truck with, and of course, the main through line of the series was turmoil between them. I guess I thought that Skins has never been about ‘setting an example’ before, why should it be that now? So we did what we did. Some liked it. Some didn’t. That’s the way it always is.

AE: I can’t say how glad I am that you did what you did. I loved the honesty and authenticity of series four. I don’t think you should treat gay characters with kid gloves. If you want equality, you treat gay characters the same way you treat every other character. Because that’s exactly what they are.

JB: Exactly. Though I read your recaps, and for you it wasn’t exactly a two-month-long telly watching orgasm, was it? I mean, you didn’t like episode seven.

AE: Honestly, it was almost too real for me, for personal reasons. I wish I’d had more time to digest it. I was watching the episode at 4:00 am and then writing a recap that would go up five hours later. But yeah, it affected me very deeply. I guess that’s the beauty of Skins, though: the way you feel it. I mean, I watch and write about and recap a lot of television, and nothing gets inside me like Skins. A lot of TV characters die and, frankly, I don’t give a s–t.
JB: Well, that’s great. If we can do that, we’re doing our job. I suffer from some pretty nasty mental illnesses myself, and that episode was pretty hard to write too. And it was full of paranoia and dread and fear, but weirdly I think it’s ultimately a positive episode.

AE: Maybe the reaction is a testament to the power of your storytelling ability.
JB: Yeah. But there’s another way of looking at it, which is that some people didn’t like it. Some people thought it was just crap. And I have to listen to that. If I don’t, what am I? An arrogant arsehole convinced he’s a genius and that everyone else is an idiot.

AE: I think there’s a nicer way to protest though. I could have been nicer. If you had it to do again, would you kill Freddie?
JB: Yes.

AE: But he’ll always live on in fan fiction because that is the beauty of the Internet!
JB: Yes!

AE: I was reading a TV theory book recently, and one of the things the author said is that the way viewers take ownership of a show’s characters is directly proportional to how in-tune that show’s creators are with the online fanbase. The more plugged in you are, the more the audience thinks they own the characters. And Skins is very plugged in.
JB: Yes, and we allow our audience to contribute and take part, so they feel a real sense of ownership, which is fine. I love it. But in the end the show is what me and my writers want to do. And our views don’t always line up with the audiences. It’s something that’s true on every show.

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