Skins stars April Pearson and Laya Lewis have opened up about their experiences working on the E4 show, saying that they did not feel protected while filming sex scenes.
During a new interview, Pearson (who played Michelle Richardson on the teen series’ first generation) and Lewis (Liv Malone on the third generation) also discussed being told to “skip meals” amid “pressure” to be slimmer.
Speaking on Pearson’s podcast Are You Michelle from Skins?, Lewis recalled: “I turned 18 right at the beginning of filming, so I just had so many more sex scenes than everyone else.
“My first day was a sex scene. I do think fair enough, we are actors and we are acting, but I think if you want to pluck children out of the street, which is essentially what they were doing to have this authentic on-screen thing going on, there needs to be a bit of help or talk through things, I don’t know. It was just a bit much to be like, bang, day one, here you are.”
“I think there’s a difference between being officially old enough and mentally old enough,” Pearson added. “What happens on your 17th or 18th birthday that makes you so different to when you were turning 16 or turning 17? I was having this conversation with my husband and I was saying I do feel like I was too young, I feel like I wasn’t protected.”
Recalling another incident, Lewis explained: “I definitely felt a lot of pressure to be smaller or slimmer. From some of my own internalised stuff from watching the show and also what you were seeing on camera then, which wasn’t as eclectic and different from what we’re seeing now.
“But also from the actual creators or people behind the scenes. There was one point where we were told to skip breakfast, and for dinner we should just eat a jacket potato.
“Series six we all had to have a meeting, and we were told to basically skip meals. I was the main one speaking up, and I remember saying, ‘we all look the same as we did last year.’ And I remember so-and-so going, ‘do you Laya? Do you all look the same as you did last year?'”
Lewis continued: “There was also this moment where we each had to, when we were filming – because we had to go to Morocco in the first episode of season six – and we each had to, in a bikini or our swimwear, one-by-one stand in a room with just us and the creator of the show, who was male and a lot older than we were then. We were talking between the ages of 16 and 18. And be told whether we looked good or not, good enough to film in Morocco.
“And the costume asked me to go first because they were like, ‘you’re the most comfortable, and if you go first it will show the other girls that it’s not that bad.’ But it was bad. He said, ‘you look great, Laya, you look great.’ And I will never forget that moment. At the time I thought it was horrible, but I think it’s so much fucking worse now.”
“At the time you’re young and you don’t know any better,” Pearson added. “You don’t really know what to say, to speak out, is this okay. And as with a lot of victims of trauma, you look back at it and think: ‘Yeah, that was fucked up.'”
Responding to the claims, a Channel 4 spokesperson said (via Digital Spy): “It is very concerning to hear of the comments made. We now have a confidential ‘Speak Up’ facility available and widely publicised on our production call sheets for current productions, however, we take all allegations of inappropriate behaviour very seriously and encourage anyone with concerns to come forward.”
A representative for Skins co-creator Bryan Elsley said in a statement to The Sun: “We’re deeply and unambiguously sorry that any cast member was made to feel uncomfortable or inadequately respected in their work during their time on Skins.
“We’re committed to continually evolving safe, trustworthy and enjoyable working conditions for everyone who works in the TV industry.”