Skins is back for a third series - and this time, there's a whole new gang to get to know.
Heading up the cast is Tony's younger sister Effy (Kaya Scodelario), the beautiful and elusive queen bee. At her side is naive best friend Pandora (Lisa Blackwell).
Cook (Jack O'Connell) is the cocksure leader of the guys, always up for a laugh or a dare. His best friend is Freddie (Luke Pasqualino), a skateboarding pretty boy who sets his sights on Effy.
The boys' triumverate is completed by JJ (Ollie Barbieri), the clever one - and master magician. Naomi (Lily Loveless) is a feisty gal - passionate, principled and often locking horns with others in the group.
Finally, we have twins Katie (Megan Prescott) and Emily (Kathryn Prescott). The first is a social beast, with an older footballer boyfriend and scant regard for others, while the other lives in her sister's shadow, crippled by shyness.
Earlier this month I caught up with Skins co-creator Jamie Brittain to find out more about the show's new era.
Did you film the new series in the same kind of locations as the first two?
"Yeah, well mostly Bristol. Generally there are new locations though - it's quite different from the first couple of series so there's lots of new places and new things to see. We do have college in there as a base, but other than that it's all over the place."
What can we expect from the new characters?
"They're a really interesting bunch, actually. I think once people see them, they will warm to them quite quickly because they're all quite interesting. Unlike the characters in the first two series they're very much people in development. There's no-one like Tony, who could spout clever non-sequiturs and all that stuff."
Series two was more grown-up than series one and tackled more hard-hitting themes. Will series three mark a return to that naivety of the first series?
"I think it's more of a synthesis between what series one was and what series two was, to be honest. It's got a very slick variety of tones, which we're very proud of. This year it's a lot about the simple things - growing up, working out who you are and working out where you exist in your social group. It's a classic teen story really, but within that there's a wide variety of stories and characters."
What would you say are the main differences from the old Skins then?
"To an extent - and this is just to an extent - the first time round the characters were archetypal. I think that was required to give the audience a way to get into the show, but now we're much better writers and better at creating characters, so the characters this time are much more complex, real and vivid. That isn't to do down the characters from the first time round - they're brilliant - but this time we're playing a slightly different game. It's a bit more in-depth."
When we spoke earlier this year you said it was "possible" the old cast could come back for cameos. Any movement on that?
"There's some nice references to them and stuff like that, but I don't think they'll come back. For one thing they're all off doing their own things now. Dev Patel (Anwar) has Oscar buzz around him for this Slumdog Millionaire film. Mitch Hewer's (Maxxie) doing well in Britannia High, Nick Hoult's (Tony) off doing a play, Larissa Wilson (Jal) and April Pearson (Michelle) have just been in a film and Mike Bailey's (Sid) just been in a drama for the BBC. If I were them I wouldn't want to be tied down to Skins, even though it's something to be proud of. What we hope is that when people see the new cast, they'll think 'this lot are as good as the last lot' and they won't miss the last lot."
You said the reason you ditched the previous cast was because they had a natural two-year lifespan. Would you do the same with the new cast if you went to a fifth series?
"Yeah, I think so. That's the idea. We're not really thinking that far into the future though, we do it series by series. It's hard enough to do a series on its own without thinking about the future! I would love to work on Skins as long as it's around. I think we could come up with another lot, yeah. Teenagers are so interested and varied, there's a lot you could do. We are thinking about series four already, which will of course be with the same lot, but beyond that is unknown."
Do you think the show would ever move out of Bristol?
"We never have talked about that. It's an idea, I suppose. If we felt that we'd kind of done everything we could with Bristol, we'd consider that. It's a good idea."
Finally, are you nervous about the audience reaction to the new series?
"I am nervous. But I'm also fairly confident because I think this series is really good. Just the quality of the acting, writing and directing is better than ever before. We've shown it to a few people and everyone who's seen the first episode has seemed to enjoy it so far."
Well, I'm one of those lucky few to have seen the first episode and can confirm that Jamie's right - within minutes you've forgotten all about Tony, Chris, Maxxie et al. The new characters are all introduced well - the clear standout being Cook (Jack O’Connell), who's our new Chris and Tony rolled into one. Here's a few hints of what else you can expect from the first episode:
- Harry Enfield (Effy's dad, Mr Stonem) having a very distressing accident
- Cook revealing his rather interesting tattoo to the entire college
- Ardal O'Hanlan's first appearance as the gang's careless Irish form tutor
- Naomi's embarrassing surname being revealed
- Katie attempting to befriend Effy
- Cook, Freddie and JJ attempting to befriend Effy in an entirely different sense
- A very steamy encounter in the first aid office
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