Skins stars claim they felt unprotected during sex scenes and were told to ‘skip meals’ ahead of bikini shoots

‘You look back at it and go, ‘Yeah that was f***ed up,’ actor April Pearson says

Annabel Nugent
Saturday 22 May 2021 15:35 BST
Skins series 1 trailer

Stars of the E4 hit series Skins have spoken out about feeling unprotected during sex scenes and claimed they were told to “skip meals” ahead of shoots where they appeared in beachwear.

Featuring a cast of actors who went on to become household names (Daniel Kaluuya, Dev Patel, Nicholas Hoult), Skins was a sensation among its teenage audience when it aired, and also caused controversy in the media.

The series – which ran from 2007 to 2013 – focused on a group of teenage friends in Bristol, and offered an unflinching look at substance abuse, sex, bullying and mental illness.

However two of the show’s former stars, original series actor April Pearson (who portrayed Michelle Richardson) and Laya Lewis, who played Liv Malone, have since spoken out against the way they were treated on set.

The pair discussed the issues on an episode of Pearson’s podcast titled Are You Michelle From Skins?.

“I was having this conversation with Jamie, my husband, and I was saying I do feel like I was too young, I feel like I wasn’t protected,” said Pearson.

Lewis said she had similar experiences on set. “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,” she said.

“I do think like, it’s fair enough, we’re actors, we’re acting. But I do think if you want to pluck children out of the street, which is essentially what they were doing in order to have this authentic on-screen thing going on, I think there needs to be just a bit more… [support].”

The two actors recalled how there was no intimacy coordinator on set, as is now standard practice to ensure consent and the safety of those involved when shooting sex scenes.

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Lewis also alleged that the actors were questioned about their weight, claiming that bosses urged them to “skip meals” ahead of shoots.

Lewis also claimed that actors, dressed in a bikini or swimwear, were asked “one-by-one” to “stand in a room with just us and the creator of the show, who was male and a lot older than we were and be told whether we looked good or not, good enough to film in Morocco”.

Reflecting on the experience now, Pearson added: “A conversation I’m having a lot with [Skins] alumni is, at the time you’re young, you don’t know any better, you don’t really know what to say and speak out.

“As with a lot of victims of trauma, you look back at it and go, ‘Yeah that was f***ed up.’”

Skins was created by father and son duo Bryan Elsey and Jamie Brittain.

A representative of Elsey issued a statement to The Sun in response to the comments, reading: “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.”

A Channel 4 spokesperson also told MailOnline that it is “very concerning” to hear Pearson’s and Lewis’s comments.

“We now have a confidential ‘Speak Up’ facilitator 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,” read the statement.

The Independent has contacted Channel 4, Bryan Elsey and Jamie Brittain for comment.

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