When a British cable channel produces a post-watershed teen drama that captures the attention of lesbians around the globe, you know something special has happened. When that drama sweeps the Visibility Awards on the world’s largest lesbian entertainment website, it’s fair to call it a phenomenon.
Dr. Ann-Marie Cook, Visiting Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation at Queensland University of Technology, watched Skins and fell as hard for Naomily as we did, but instead of channeling it into fiction or recaps like the rest of us, she decided to write a book about the phenomenon. We’ve published excerpts from two of her interviews (one with Kathryn Prescott and one with Lily Loveless), and now I’ve finally pinned her down and begged her to give us some more scoop on her project.
AfterEllen.com: Where were you the moment you realized you were smitten with Naomily?
I would never actually wish to be sick, but developing a nasty chest infection that required complete bed rest is quite possibly one of the best things that could have happened to me because when I needed something to watch to pass the time, I turned to Skins so I could see for myself why people were making such a fuss about Naomily. I cheated a bit by going straight to series three, but I was completely hooked after the first episode! It was great to watch all of the Generation 2 episodes back-to-back and it created a more intense viewing experience because there was no time to ‘come down’ from that heightened emotional register you get into with every episode.
AE: What was your initial reaction to the storyline?
I was completely drawn in by the sensitivity and honesty Lily Loveless and Kathryn Prescott brought to their roles. I could feel in the pit of my stomach every single twinge of emotion that Naomi and Emily experienced in that rollercoaster of a storyline! It may not be scientific, but the “gut test,” as I like to call it, is a good measure of whether a storyline is just your average, bog-standard piece of entertainment or whether it’s really magnificent storytelling that seduces you into entering the fantasy world of the narrative so completely that you genuinely feel everything that happens. In this case, the storyline passed the gut test: I was utterly seduced Naomily!
AE: So seduced that you decided to make the leap from “fan” to “Naomily Historian!”
I’m a big believer in the idea that things happen for a reason and it was certainly true in this case because the opportunity to write the Naomily book presented itself at a time when I needed a bit of direction. I had just come through a pretty grim period of dealing with a serious illness — and when I say serious, I mean the sort of thing that prevents you from seeing your next birthday. I had to put my research and teaching on hold and even though I wrote things when I felt up to it, and even got some of them published, I felt completely isolated from the academic setting that had basically been my world before I got sick. I did a lot of thinking about life and whether the research I was doing really mattered in the grand scheme of things to anyone but me. Even though I enjoyed the topics I wrote about, my heart wasn’t in the work the way it used to be and that realisation made me question whether I should switch to a different career.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s like you said in another interview: We’re not writing something that’s going to change the world here. But I see that there’s a segment of the fandom that feels the loss of Naomily so keenly that they are genuinely desperate for something new to satisfy their need for — how shall I put this effectively — “moarrrr Naomily!!!” So I do see this project as something that can reach out to those people and anyone else who is interested in the show.
AE: What Skins folks have you spoken to about Naomily?
I’m really excited about being able to give readers a more complete picture of everything that was happening behind the scenes during the production process.