IdeasMag talks to the third-generation Skins actor about how he got cast as Matty, getting noticed in the street and why talent is a muscle...
I didn’t know the last audition I did for Matty was the last hurdle, the final callback.
I was coming into London and got to Paddington and I realised I hadn’t got my debit card, my Oyster card, nothing. So there I was, with about 25 minutes to go to the audition. I knew it was fairly important, I’d done a few and I knew that there couldn’t be many more and so I thought “F**k! I’m never going to make it. This is it. What a waste of time.”
Anyway, I got the address and I thought “F**k it, one might as well try.” So I ran all the way down the Marylebone Road in the pouring rain – it’s a long road and I’m hideously unfit. I got there panting, soaking wet – maybe this is why I was cast because I looked so rugged and Skins-like. I was totally unprepared and feeling like “This is never going to happen, I’m not in the zone.” Then I got the part.
It’s very important to remember that, with Skins, you’re cast when you’re 17 – not many 17-year-olds will have had much, or any, acting experience and so you’re cast for your personality as much as how suitable you are for the role.
My character was cast last and so I arrived in Bristol about a month after everybody else had met. Some of them had met at the open auditions and there had been workshops with a great acting coach called Ian Smith. It was quite useful, because in the last series Matty doesn’t arrive until quite late. So, it was quite useful for the part I was playing, and we all became great friends in the end. Certainly in this new series there is a unit and he’s one of them – it all goes a bit pear-shaped but that’s Skins, isn’t it?
I knew of the show and I knew its influence, but I didn’t know to what extent people would notice you along the street. It all became slightly odd, and sometimes slightly difficult. I think with TV people are in their homes when they see you and so there is a feeling of ownership where perhaps with film and theatre it doesn’t apply. I think there is an element with Skins – for the fans – of where does the character end and where does the actor begin? It was very odd and fairly difficult to deal with but one gets used to it and finds ways of dealing with it.
People do come up to me and say, “Everyone must be offering you a job”. I went up for 20-odd auditions last year, a few came along and there’ll be a bit of work this year too. Rejection is part of being an actor; it’s a part of the job, [just] as stocking shelves might be in a supermarket. There’s talent but then acting is a muscle, it’s a skill. There are lots of hugely talented people who never develop their skill. Talent is 50% of it, and the other 50% is knowing what to do with it.
The National Youth Theatre, for example, is incredibly great for that. Unfortunately I got into the National Youth Theatre the summer I got Skins. That’s a great regret of mine that I couldn’t have done both. They’re so important and it’s brilliant that they still exist and are still going so strong.
I’m definitely going to pursue acting – I don’t know who else would have me, to be honest.
Skins is on Mondays at 10pm on E4.
Image courtesy of Perry Curties/Channel 4.