Blighty hit drama “Skins,” in which a group of Bristol teens have sex, take drugs, come out and break down, began six years ago with a taunt from an actual teenager — the 19-year-old son of the show’s co-creator, Bryan Elsley.
“He told me all of my pitch ideas were middle-aged rubbish.” Elsley recalls. “And I basically said to him that if he was so smart, maybe he could come up with an idea for a television series. And he just said, ‘A teen show that goes all the way.’?”
Half an hour later, Elsley and his son Jamie Brittain had sketched all of the characters and were ready to go to their producers.
Since premiering in 2007, “Skins” has won critical praise — it’s been called “the best teen show on TV” — and launched the careers of dozens of young actors, including first-generation stars Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and Nicholas Hoult (“A Single Man”).
The show is so popular that Elsley has created an American version of “Skins” for MTV that will follow the same formula they used in the U.K.: find young, real-looking actors and hire writers in their early 20s to give them realistic lines.
“All the kids on the show, most of whom had very little experience acting, are the same age as the characters they’re playing, and that’s just not very common either in the U.K. or the U.S.A.,” Elsley says. “Authenticity is our highest priority.”
Back in England, Brittain continues to work as head writer for the fifth season of “Skins,” which stars its third generation of actors, since the ensemble changes every two years.