Why She’s On Our Radar: Best known in the U.K. for her breakout turn as a troubled teen in the controversial hit series “Skins” (that spurred an MTV knockoff stateside), 20-year-old Kaya Scodelario makes a transfixing transition to the big screen in Andrea Arnold’s radical take on “Wuthering Heights” (out October 5th at New York’s Film Forum). Although this doesn’t mark her first film — she had bit parts in “Moon” and “Clash of the Titans” — her role as Cathy, the heroine of “Wuthering Heights,” marks her biggest yet.
What’s Next: She’ll next be appearing in the Dakota Fanning-starring weepie “Now Is Good.” Scodelario however told Indiewire that she’s most excited her title role in “Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes.” In the film, directed by “Tanner Hall” helmer Francesca Gregorini, and co-starring Jessica Biel and Alfred Molina, Scodelario stars as a troubled young woman who takes a strange fascination to a new neighbor who resembles her dead mother. “That was me giving 150% of myself to a project,” she said of shooting the drama. “I was in every single shot. I just loved every minute of it.”
Given that the majority of North America isn’t familiar with you, can you tell me where you beautiful name stems from?
My mother is Brazilian and her grandfather was Italian. My mom raised me on her own, so I decided to take her name cause she was my mom and my dad. And yeah, that was it really! At the Venice Film Festival where we premiered “Wuthering Heights,” it was the first time everyone could say my name properly. It was amazing. I just wanted to stay there [laughs].
I read you speak fluent Portugese. Why have you never acted in the language?
I’ve never really been approached by anyone. I would love to make a Brazilian film, but it would have to be something very close to my heart. It’s such a personal thing, so I’d want to do my family proud. I’d want to do justice to Brazilian cinema. I think Brazilian cinema is brilliant. I would really love to do something, but I’m just waiting for the right thing.
We’ll get onto “Wuthering Heights” soon, but I first want to talk about your debut in “Skins.” How did you snag one of the lead roles on that show with no experience?
“Skins” wanted to create a new thing by actually casting real teenagers. I think it was very brave of them. They also wanted to give the opportunity to people who didn’t go to drama school. It’s quite a strange business to get into if you’re not connected, and I wasn’t at all. I was just in school off-London, and I never thought it was really a possibility.
I think the casting really set the tone. I’m finding a lot of actors my age now who are a bit more like me, and not as posh or brought up in a certain way. There’s now people of all sorts of kinds of backgrounds.
Were you wary of taking part in a show that deals with things like drugs, underage drinking and unprotected sex? Was your mother?
It’s quite strange, but I never did at all and neither did my mother. She knew how passionate I was to have this role and how lucky I was to have the opportunity to do it. She just supported me by telling me I could stop doing it any time I wanted to.
I just loved pushing boundaries. We’re evolving as people and our mindsets are changing. I felt there needed to be a show for teenagers that didn’t make them feel judged. “Skins” never tried to preach. It allowed young people to make their own decisions about what to do and whether it was right or wrong. Young people really respond to that, and that’s what sets “Skins” apart.
You lucked out by scoring your first film gig on “Moon.”
I know, I was lucky with that one!
It was crazy, I was only 14 at the time. I remember I didn’t want to go to the audition, because I had never done an American accent. I thought they were going to laugh at me. My agent really pushed me and said, “Have a go, it’s only a small part.” I went and Duncan Jones was unbelievably sweet.
I kind of wish I could experience it again so I could appreciate it more, because I was so young. I didn’t know what was going on, I was just there inside this spaceship. It was such a brilliant film, and Duncan had so much passion. It felt like we were creating a baby.
Was Andrea Arnold on your radar before coming onto “Wuthering Heights”?
I was aware of “Fish Tank.” I hadn’t seen it before I met her, however. I was quite worried about doing a period drama. I think they’ve been done again and again the same way. When they said Andrea Arnold was attached to it, I thought it would be interesting. I knew she would shock people and bring a new light to it.
How did you get on her radar?
I’m not sure. I just got sent the audition through my agent. I went to have a chat with her and we just had a very honest conversation. We got on very well. She sees things in people and that’s how she casts her films. I’m very grateful for that.
You have a lot of experience compared to the majority of the cast in her film. What was it like to work opposite a cast of relative unknowns who had little to no experience?
I never felt as though I was the experienced one. I’m lucky to have fallen into this trade and I’m still fighting to stay in it. So I didn’t want to preach to them or try and tell them what to do, because I know it’s possible to find your own way, and they all did. Every day they’d come on set and they’d be asking new and more questions. They slowly fell in love with it, like I did on “Skins.”
But obviously it was nice to be able to give a helping hand and explain how things work. But in all honesty they were fucking fine on their own, especially the kids. They were amazing.
Like everything Andrea does, it’s clearly a work of passion. What was it like being on set with her?
I think you used a really good word there. I think the word “passion” is a key word for Andrea. She doesn’t do anything unless she’s willing to give her self fully to the project. She’s a deeply emotional person and she completely throws herself into to her work. It isn’t about money and it isn’t about awards. It’s about taking something that’s true to her heart and really giving herself to it. That’s what attracted me to her and to the project.
She turns that completely on its head. She threw out every rule there is of making a period drama and she made it her way. She pushed the boundaries. I think that’s really inspiring for young filmmakers. You can do it your own way.