“Skins” boss Bryan Elsley talks Tea, Tony and Naomily


AE: That brings up an interesting point then. On the press screener I got for Stanley’s episode, Tea blows off Tony by telling Betty not to leave. (Betty: “I can go; this sun’s serious.” Tea: “No! It’s not serious. [Turns to Tony] It never was serious. Right, Tony?”) But in the episode that aired on MTV, Tea just says, “I’m kind of busy here, Tone.” How come?

The reason that didn’t make the cut was that I felt like it couldn’t be more clear in that scene what Tea was saying to Tony. Which was, you know, she was not interested in speaking with him at that moment. She was with someone and to stop following her around.

One thing I will say is that I haven’t come under any pressure from MTV to remove any lesbian or gay content. MTV has communicated to me in numerous occasions that they have a good relationship with the gay community. It’s a relationship they cherish. It’s one they believe in. I haven’t done any of this on anyone else’s instruction; I’ve only done it on my own stupidity.

AE: [Laughing] Oh, man. OK, well, I have to ask you this next thing. You knew you had a strong lesbian fanbase after Naomily, and there are a lot of people who think you decided to cash in on that by hooking them with the promise of a lesbian character and then — surprise! — she fell for a man.

Well, I think the best way to say it is that there’s nothing special about a gay character, in the sense that “gay” isn’t the first thing I think of when I think of Tea. That’s not the most important or most interesting thing about her.

AE: Like it wasn’t the most important or most interesting thing about Noami and Emily.

Right. What’s important about Tea is that she’s gotten herself into a situation that she shouldn’t. The back half of the series is about the consequences of that, and for a show that’s not supposed to have any consequences, it’s bucking a trend, I’d say.

AE: Fan criticism aside, do you think you accomplished what you set out to accomplish when you started writing Tea?

Yes, I do. I mean, the creation of Tea came out of my friendship with a lesbian who I like and respect and think is an interesting person, and my feeling about Sofia Black-D’elia, who I met and think is a tremendous actress. And, of course, from my teen group and writers room.

AE: I have a suggestion for you, a way to turn around all this anger in an instant: You could just whip out that Skins movie.

Oh, I’d love to be able to tell you about the movie, Heather. Movies are so complicated and difficult. They tend to just get postponed and postponed and postponed and then somehow you’re making it. It’s impossible at this point to say when that movie will get made.

AE: But do you feel confident that the movie will get made?

I’d say the prospect is 50-50. But if we were set to start filming on Monday, I’d still feel 50-50 because that’s the movie industry. But I certainly wouldn’t want to write the movie to defend myself. But I do love Lily and Kat. I love writing for them. I think they’re amazing, and I would love to do the movie.

AE: How are you going to follow up that series four ending? It’s legendary, you know. Skins fandom calls it the True Love speech. Where’d that come from, anyway? Naomi’s acknowledgment that she’d been in love with Emily for practically her whole life?

: It took two years for that line to roll out. The ending I wrote for Naomily is the first thing I thought of two years before. Where I finished is where I started with the whole relationship. And Lily did do it well, didn’t she?

AE: Did she ever. Does Naomily hold a special place in your heart?

Yes, it absolutely does. It’s also surreal because, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how I started writing about that. Where it comes from, I think, is that I have a deep feeling for the experience of teenagers. And I think that gay teenagers do have some of the most intense experiences. I do believe, in that way, that they are special. They have a unique mountain to climb. I am drawn to the stories of young gay teenagers in some ways because I have an admiration for their strength.

AE: Would you like to say anything else to AfterEllen.com readers?

I think I’d just like to urge them to watch the whole story. If it’s not quite right, I’ll own it. But I would encourage them to watch the whole thing. Skins is not about one episode; it’s about 10.

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