PHOTO BY THOMAS GIDDINGS
Brazilian Brit Kaya Scodelario has experience playing troubled youths. She is undoubtedly most famous for her role as Effy Stonem on the UK version (really, the only version) of Skins. Enigmatic Effy didn’t say much, though she was the show’s longest running character: appearing in the first four seasons, Effy didn’t have any lines until the show’s eighth episode. But Effy didn’t need to speak. Somehow, with a raised eyebrow, a roll of the eye and a sideways smile, Kaya clearly conveyed her character: an alarmingly precocious and disillusioned teenager. More recently, Kaya has taken on the role of Cathy Earnshaw in indie director Andrea Arnold’s much-lauded adaptation of Wuthering Heights and filmed Now is Good opposite Marc Jacobs’ darling, Dakota Fanning. We caught Kaya before she runs off to LA to shoot her next film with Jessica Biel and Alfred Molina, to chat about teenage romance, Antonio Banderas, and how she’s brushing up on her American accent.
HOMETOWN: London, UK
ON STARRING IN YET ANOTHER ADAPTATION OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS: My biggest worry was that I couldn’t relate because it was set such a long time ago. I thought, “Ooh, I have no idea what they felt like. That was a hundred years ago.” [laughs] [But] once I heard that Andrea was directing it, I knew her vision would be completely different to anything that’s been done before. I’ve never read the book before; I was told not to at the first audition. I think Andrea wanted us to go into it very open-minded, without trying to copy someone’s performance or do something that we’d seen before. I’d always obviously known about it, and my mum was a huge fan—but I always assumed it was this great love story, I think a lot of people do. The image you get from that, you think it’s a happy-go-lucky love film, and it’s not at all. It’s a very cruel, violent, depressing, Gothic story, much more about the psyche of the characters than the actual love. I found that very interesting, and I wanted to shine a new light on this film so that people get a new vision of it, a new understanding of it.
ON DYSFUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS: I really do enjoy playing love storylines; it’s something I’m quite fascinated with at the moment, the sort of psychological side of it, falling in love, what it feels like at that age. I think it was very important for Andrea to play Cathy at that age, because when you’re a teenager, falling in love for the first time or the second time, it’s very different to the love that you have later on in life. As a teenager, you’re still discovering who you are, what your life is about, and who you want to be as a person. It’s very intense. [laughs] It’s a very sort of crazy love, and I can understand Cathy’s craziness for [Heathcliff]. Filming in Yorkshire on location, there’s just nothing there, it’s a very wild landscape, and you can see how one small emotion can feel like a huge thing in your life because there is nothing else there . . . that is everything.
ON THE POLITICS OF PERIOD FILMS: I was very hesitant about doing a period film. It was very much out of my comfort zone; I’d never done anything like that before. I’ve not been to drama school, so I wasn’t trained in the technicalities. I would have loved the opportunity to have gone to drama school, but it just didn’t work out for me; there are always several paths, and there’s a reason why I’ve been down this path. I am quite proud that I managed to prove that you don’t have to be able to afford drama school or have the right connections to do well. When I was very young, I didn’t think I’d ever get this opportunity [to act]. I was very sad about it, I thought you had to be very rich or have connected parents. That feeling of not being allowed to do something that’s your passion is horrible. I like the idea of up-and-coming actors nowadays being a little different and not necessarily the drama-school stereotype, being a bit more edgy.
WORKING WITH FIRST-TIME ACTORS: With Wuthering Heights, everyone asked, “Oh, [all of your co-stars] are new [to acting], what was it like working with them?” But I don’t feel like an established actor, I feel like I’m in the same boat as them. [Wuthering Heights] was my first big film, and every new job feels like the first time, you never leave that feeling of the first day of school, so I could easily relate. I [also] didn’t want to be the person telling [my costars] what to do, or giving them advice. I wanted them to find their own journey and they did, and I respected that. I knew they would, much like I did with [my first acting job] Skins. There was always watching Nick Holt and how he conducted himself, learning from all the older actors who would come in to play parents. I learnt a lot more that way than being told what to do.
WORKING WITH DAKOTA FANNING: It was really cool to work with Dakota Fanning. I’ve watched her grow up and I’ve always loved her films, loved her. It was amazing working with someone who was American as well, because obviously it’s going to be a different energy straightaway. We got on really well; she’s so professional and hardworking.
HOW TO ACQUIRE AN AMERICAN ACCENT: You can get a voice coach, and they are very helpful, but I think the most important thing is to train yourself; [when] you hear your voice in an accent, and it doesn’t really sound like you, you think about it too much. I’ve been watching TV and repeating what people say in an American accent, phoning up taxis and ordering them in an American accent, stuff like that, just to get used to hearing my voice in a different way. I’ll try my best to do it justice!
FANTASY CO-STAR: I’d like to work with . . . everyone. Am I allowed to say that? My dream [actor] to work with is actually a British actor, Tom Hardy. My mum has told me that I have to work with Antonio Banderas just so that she can meet him and try and marry him. [laughs] He’s married? Oh no! Well, she can hug him then. [laughs]
BRAZIL!: My mum is Brazilian and very proud. I’d love to do a Brazilian film. I’ve been brought up in the Brazilian culture. My mum brought me up on my own, I cook Brazilian food, I’ve never spoken a word of English to my mother. It would mean a lot to me, but it would have to be the right project.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS’ US PREMIERE WILL BE AT THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL.