If you’re a fan of the first generation of Skins, the pilot of the American adaptation will be very familiar to you — with one notable exception: gorgeous, tap-dancing Maxxie’s Big Gay Night Out has been replaced with gorgeous, cheerleading Tea’s Big Lesbian Night Out.
But if you’re worried that MTV’s remake is going to be the mirror image of the UK series — where “arse” and “bollocky wankshite” are reflected as “ass” and “bullshit” — let me put your mind at ease: Skins co-creator Bryan Elsley told the Television Critics Association, “We’ve hired a bunch of very, very talented American screenwriters, and already, series one is looking very different. There will be a degree of resonance, let’s say, from the UK show, but you’ll find some original episodes and some very original writing from the young team.”
Elsley knows that the number of successful British television imports in America is “quite small,” in large part because of the tempestuous balance between British source material and American culture. It doesn’t work to simply change names and accents. For every The Office, there are dozens of Couplings — an analogy that works well in this case, because just like The Office, if US Skins survives for a second season, the content will be completely original.
But why not just change everything right from the start? Elsley’s got an answer for that, too. One of the things that sets Skins apart from other teen dramas is that young people actually write the show. “But in order to achieve that,” Elsley says, “You have to invest in those young people very, very heavily over a long period of time.”
That’s why Elsley, Jamie Brittain and Jack Thorne wrote most of the first series of UK Skins, before handing over so much creative control to teenagers in the second series and beyond. The upside? It resonates in a way no other teen show ever has. The downside? It takes time.
And if the American adaptation makes it as far as a second season, there’s something else to be excited about: The Skins writers room in America is full of young gay men and women. “I’m very pleased about the gay contingent in my [writers room],” Elsley told us. “They just showed up. They were very assertive and very confident and very opinionated, and that put them in my room. Those voices will come out. They can’t not come out.”
So what about now? What about Tea? We told you this weekend that she is going to be played by Sofia Black D’Elia, but what we didn’t tell you is that your resistance to US Skins is futile: Sofia is going to charm her way into your heart whether you like it or not.
The 18-year-old actress from North Jersey is warm and bright and articulate. She understands the loyalty to the UK show. She understands what it means to play a “fully-rounded, complex, difficult” lesbian character (Elsley’s words) in the current void of fully-rounded, complex, difficult lesbian characters on American TV. And you know what else? Naomi and Emily are her favorite Skins couple.
AfterElton.com’s Michael Jensen caught up with Sofia and Bryan at TCA. He even said the word “Naomily” out loud. (Cutest thing you’ve ever heard.)