Aww! The Skins cast are besties even off-screen! Mere days after wrapping the first season, Sofia Black D'Elia (Tea), Camille Crescensia-Mills (Daisy), and Ron Mustafaa (Abbud) fielded questions at a press screening in New York... And it didn't take long for the questions to get down and dirty! Read on to find out about talking to your parents about losing your on-screen virginity, girls kissing girls, and Ron's remarkable way with words.
Did you watch the British version of Skins?
Sofia: I was a huge fan of the UK series even before I knew it was coming to the States. I actually saw Season 3 before I saw Season 1. I’m a huge fan of Generation 2, as well as the people we’re trying to portray. Everything about the [UK] show to me is so impressive — the young writers and the young actors. I wanted to be an actor when I was younger. I had no idea what I was doing and it was really cool to see a show with kids that had never done it before. So it was inspiring, and I was thrilled when I heard it was coming here. I thought even if I could just audition for it, it would be such a cool process.
Camille: My parents were actually the ones who showed me the first two seasons of Skins, which is kind of weird. But I loved the show so much, and I loved Generation 2 and everything about it. My favorite thing about the show is that it’s really real, you can see something that [the characters are] doing and you can say, "Oh, that was me and my friend yesterday!" I love that it’s so natural.
Ron: My mom was a huge fan of Slumdog because Dev Patel was in it, and she’s like "Ronnie! You can be the next Slumdog!" And I’m like "Mom, Danny Boyle isn’t going to make Slumdog 2." And then she was like "No, send a tape." And then she was like, "You know [Dev Patel] was on this show Skins?" And I searched online, and saw it, and I was like, "This sh*t is good." I instantly fell in love. They had open calls in Toronto, and just going there and giving it a try was more than enough for me.
There’s been some flak about the US Skins changing the gay character from Maxxie (a dude) to Tea (a girl). What did you think about that controversy?
Sofia: I think that’s expected, especially when [it seems like] every other character on the show remained the same. But when it airs, I think it will become very obvious that they didn’t [keep the rest of the characteres the same]. Their names may be the same or very similar, but each of us brings something completely new to the show. That decision was completely Bryan Elsley’s, and as a fan of the original I trust him completely. Tea’s storyline kind of crashes into so many others on the show, and I think for a lot of people who are wondering "Why are you making an identical remake?" that my storyline is a perfect example of how we’re not. [Tea is] an incredible character, and I’ve grown to love her and I hope other people will too. Of course, Maxxie was amazing, and I understand why people are upset, but as with everything else on the show, I hope that people will give it a chance.
Can you tell us anything about the storylines that Tea will "crash into"?
Sofia: [Laughs] No! I can tell you that she is a very confident girl; she’s comfortable with who she is, the same way Maxxie was. I can’t tell you who on the show she kind of "crashes into," but it’s more than one person. She’s very similar to Tony in the sense that she’s bored with everyone around her. I think Tony’s motivation for the things he does is that he’s bored and he’s too clever for his own good. And she’s like that as well. She’s kind of too clever for her own good. It really is her own downfall, more than anyone else's. Wait 'til January!
Can you tell us about your characters?
Camille: Daisy is the most responsible one in the group — the one always caring about her friends, making sure everyone is solid, watching out for everyone. She’s really passionate about playing trumpet. She also takes care of her little sister and her dad, too. She’s kind of just taking care of everyone, but I feel like sometimes Daisy just wants to be herself a little bit.
Ron: Abbud is just confused and horny, and he loves girls and he has a best friend who’s a lesbian. Most of it is him trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life because his parents are really conservative and really Muslim. Then there’s the other aspect, where his friends are really crazy and wild so he’s trying to discover himself, too. He’s also kinda looking to find true love. I see him almost as a hopeless romantic. He tends to be like, “I love girls, babes all over me,” but really, if he makes out with a girl, he’ll probably fall in love with her. I think that creates some interesting dynamics. As the show progresses you’ll see that come out in him. He loves horror movies, he likes rap music, which is like a weird combo, but that’s Abbud. He says some really dumb stuff.
Sofia: Everything about him is a weird combo, though.
You guys are coming into a group of ensemble teen shows that are on now, like 90210 and Gossip Girl. Do you feel a responsibility to portray teen life in a more realistic sense?
Ron: Those shows are great, they’re just a bit different than what we’re trying to do. We’re not saying that what they do on screen is any better or any worse or any more real. They’re showing Upper East Side New York, and we’re showing middle class families, kids growing up and being friends and going through problems with money, with friendship, with parents — and just, like, screwing up. Bryan even watches 90210 and Gossip Girl sometimes just to get a vibe of what those shows are like [in order to] kind of change Skins from that and make it a bit different.
Sofia: Everything on television is exaggerated. We’re not trying to say that every group of teenagers is going out and doing the things that the characters on this show do. I think the thing about Skins that makes it so different is that the people behind the show are the people that are watching it – the writers, the teen advisors. When you’re watching television you want to be able to relate to it, and I think that, more than any other show on TV, this show is by teenagers for teenagers, and it’s kind of by outcast for outcasts, too, which is really cool. I think that's the biggest difference. This is really a show for teenagers entirely. It’s not about glitz and glamour; it’s about the truth, which is usually not glitzy and glamorous at all.
Camille: I think that the most realistic part of Skins is the friendships and the relationships. Off-screen we’re like a family and on-screen we’re like a family.
Sofia: A dysfunctional family.
Ron: Yeah, I think the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is just extra stuff. It’s heightened TV, it’s scripted TV, and at the base of it it’s really about friendship and growing up and finding out who you are.
Can you relate to your characters at all?
Sofia: I’m very far from who my character is. [Laughs] There are certain aspects that I can definitely relate to. One of them is her relationship with her family. Her father is Italian and her mother is Jewish — that’s exactly what my household was like. There’s a scene in my episode where you walk into the kitchen and you kind of experience what a household like that is. And I felt like I was at home at set that day. The loud voices. People talking over each other.
Ron: You’re really confident like Tea is. In a good confident way, not cocky. I think Sofia portrays that on-screen really well.
Camille: I relate to Daisy in the way that I really care about my family and friends. I’ll do anything for them. [I'm ] probably not the most responsible one in our group of friends, but I care about them a lot.
Ron: Apparently I say some dumb things on set, I don’t know if you got this from the interview. But Abbud tends to do that a lot on screen. Other than that, I’m not as hardcore as he can be, both with partying and going to the Mosque every day, or having a lesbian for a best friend. That would be amazing though...
Sofia: That’s what we mean about the funny things that Ron says…
Ron: Stupid sh*t...
Sofia: No, it’s funny! Abbud is very endearing because he’s kind of the comic relief of the group, although he does have a much more depressing storyline than you’d imagine, eventually. So Ron is kind of that for us. He always makes us laugh, even when we’re in the middle of maybe a serious scene, or a group scene where we really should be focusing… he really always breaks the ice.
Ron: I was actually told to leave set once.
Sofia: Because he was making us laugh! I think if you’re told to leave set, that would be the best reason to be forced to leave.
Ron: Thanks, guys.
Sofia: You know the book Sh*t My Dad Says? We want to do a book called Sh*t Ron Says. If we could get that to happen that’d be awesome
You and your parents disagree a bit on the show, what do you argue about with your parents in real life?
Ron: My mom’s really chill. My mom’s just really brown and Indian. You know what I mean, The Indian Parent. Sometimes I have weird phone calls with her, like "Hey mom, I’m gonna be making out with this chick on screen, is that okay?" And she’ll be like, "Yeah, as long as it’s just making out." And I’ll be like, "But it’s gonna lead to other stuff, and I’ll be like, against the wall with her," and she’ll be like, "What does 'against the wall' mean? Why are you using code language with me?" When I break it down that I’m having sex with someone on-screen, she flips out for like three minutes and she’s like "Okay, okay… this is just a show, right? You’re not doing this in real life?" And I’m like, "No, never." She just takes everything one day at a time. She grew up in India, I grew up in America, and we have such different cultures.
Sofia: You grew up in Canada.
Ron: Canada. I feel like a New Yorker right now.
What was it like filming the sex scenes? Those must have been different, especially for Sofia.
Sofia: I think I’ve experienced a wide range of sex scenes, and they were all challenging, But now that we’ve wrapped, I can honestly say that they were nowhere near my toughest days on set. I had my character's talent for dancing on the side [that I had to learn], that was so much harder. Much more time went into that. I always say this, and I have no experience so I don’t really know, but I think we have the greatest crew ever.
Ron and Camille: Ever.
Sofia: They’re so incredible with us. To go on set and do something like [a sex scene] you really need a bunch of people on set supporting you and comforting you. That’s exactly what they did. Both of our directors, Scott and Samir, talked us through everything. They also left a lot of it in our hands, so we all felt confident going into it. My first sexual scene with a girl was definitely an experience. But it’s just another part of [Tea's] character that I had to connect to. I was lucky enough that a couple of the girls I kissed were really pretty!
Ron: They were pretty hot.
Camille: I think that sex scenes are really funny. In between takes it’s just joking around, lying there with your friend. It’s not as hard as playing trumpet, for example.
Sofia: Or even the more emotional scenes. If you’ve seen the UK show, you know how much actually happens. By month two, it’s kind of nothing. There’s so much that we experience on the show, good and bad, and [the sex] is such a small part of it, that I think once you get over the awkwardness of it the first time it’s like any other scene, which is really cool. It’s also because we’re so incredibly close. I don’t think we could be any closer than we are.
Camille: It was so much harder to do it with someone that we weren’t as close with.
Ron: Not to say that we all have sex with each other...
Sofia: It’s easier to do sexual things with each other because we trust each other so much. That goes across the board, I think that because of our lack of experience, something that I was really nervous about is maybe not living up to the expectations of the person I was in a scene with, but we all always nod at each other like, "you’re doing a really great job… you’re amazing…" we’re always building each other up so much and whether it’s a sex scene or a drug scene, crying scene, family scene, as long as it’s with each other, we’ll be fine.
Ron: The best scenes are when we’re all the 9 of us on set.
Sofia: It’s the best scenes for us but the worst scenes for the crew.
Ron: it literally takes 5 hours to get one scene done with us because one person laughing and then… you don’t want to be there at the end of the day with the 9 of us. We think everything we say is the funniest thing.
Were you instantly such good friends?
Ron: I’m roommates with Jesse, who plays Chris.
Sofia: Everyone in the cast is kind of paired up together.
Camille: Me, Rachel, and Daniel all hang out a lot, and Sofia is living down the street.
Ron: And I’m in the same building as [Camille].
Sofia: But I think we all have different relationships with each other, which makes it a really cool dynamic. And what you were saying about if we were instantly friends, I think during the pilot, it was kind of interesting. You threw people in who first of all aren’t even from the same country and second of all from different ages and different backgrounds and by day two we were great friends. I think by the end of the pilot we were best friends, and now I think we’re family.
Camille: When you’re thrown into a situation like that where the adults and the crew have been doing it for years, we just had ourselves to lean on, so we know we’re all in the same boat.
Sofia: I honestly feel lucky every day that I have you guys. I think our lives are about to get really crazy and if I didn’t have them I think it would be really tough to get through.
Ron: Even now that we’re done filming we’re always in touch -- through Facebook, on the phone.
Sofia: We finished filming two days ago!
Ron: I miss you guys. Jesus Christ, can’t I say that?