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From Skins to Hollywood – Kaya Scodelario talks Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

September 12, 2015

Film + EntertainmentInterview | by Francesco Cerniglia


Ever since her breakthrough debut in 2007 on E4’s hit teen drama Skins, young British actress Kaya Scodelario has built a steady career that from small indie films has led her to join the ever growing plethora or British talent conquering Hollywood one film at a time. Candid had the pleasure of spending some time with the talented, beautiful and funny actress upon the release of her latest film, The Scorch Trials, the second installment in The Maze Runner series. Besides being extremely lovely to talk to, the 23-year-old rising star, who recently got engaged to American actor Benjamin Walker (they met on the set of upcoming film The Moon and The Sun), oozes with an impressive level of wisdom and maturity at such a young age.

Although 2007 is not too far away in the past, does it feel like ages have gone by since your career start on Skins, given where you are now?

I guess it does. Sometimes it does. I’ve never really watched it back again but every now and again I’ll be on some TV program and they show me a clip of it and when I look at it I think “Oh my God! Who is that?” as I look so much younger and I sound so much younger but the memories of it are always lovely. I was so in love with that job and so in love with getting to do the thing I’d been wanting to do that it feels like yesterday. I still have the same excitement and I still have the same feeling of how it’s insane that this is all happening to me. So in that sense it still feels new but watching it, I mean, if you think there was no Instagram or Twitter, it was so different back then.

Is there anything in particular that you retain from that experience that still affects you today in your career?

It was really cool. I think it taught all of us not to have an ego. No one turned up going “you know, I’m a really famous actor and you guys are lucky to have me” or “I have a bigger trailer than you”. It kind of taught us all to just have fun and enjoy it for the sake of what it is and to not expect anything from it. When we shot the first series, we had no idea that it would get another series, let alone three more generations and I’ve always kind of kept that with me. There’s still a fresh excitement every time I go on a job and I’m still looking forward to every new adventure. And I’ve learned that from all of them, from Nick Hoult, Dev Patel, Joe Dempsey, Daniel Kaluuya, I’ve learned to just enjoy it and not come into it expecting anything else or expecting to be treated differently to anyone else.


Moving on to The Scorch Trials, this time around you’re no longer the only girl in a group of boys, and although Teresa, your character, doesn’t really interact much with the new entry Brenda (Rosa Salazar), I feel she’d still be more of her own island even if she and Brenda had more scenes together. Aside from the blurry past she shares with Thomas and actually because of the mystery surrounding that, she hasn’t made a connection with anyone else of the boys. She remains an outsider and she has this ambiguously intriguing aura about her. We get to uncover a bit more about her this time around but there’s obviously more to it. How did you prepare for that and how was it to be separate from the rest of the gang?

For me it was very important because I don’t believe Teresa is a villain. I don’t think she’s a bad character and I don’t believe it’s that simple, that’s why I love that we’ve done it this way. She’s on the journey with them and it’s just that she’s having a different experience. What I think it’s also very important to remember is that she’s the only one who has her memories back. She’s the only one who remembers what the world was really like, who felt that pain very personally. She saw her mother get sick. The others are trying to survive and she’s kind of looking at the bigger picture. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to distance her, it was all about pacing, you know, where do we put that in, where does she start and for me is where she sees the photo of the little girl in the mall. There’s a humanity to her, she’s thinking about humanity in a greater sense. It was difficult for me to get into that because these guys are my best friends, I do adore them but there’d be days I’d be a bit quiet and they’d come over and ask if I was ok.

When I work I do give a bit of myself, I do destroy a part of me and then that’s why I do the job I do, it’s what I believe I need to do. I enjoy it in a weird, fucked up way. But with this one I did really destroy a part of me. I had to be lonely, I had to be sad and I was for a lot of the shooting because I thought she has to constantly have this underlying sadness that she’s afraid to share, since no one else can understand her experience. So my process was just that, to feel as if I was having a different experience to everyone else, to take it in, the vastness of it all. I spent a lot of time looking into the distance and soaking up the landscape which is a very harsh landscape, very dry and ugly. I wanted to see it for that, whereas the boys thought it was really cool and they were throwing balls around. So I did try to distance myself as much as I could but at the same time they are my best friends and I like hanging out with them, so it was a difficult one to balance.

Wes (Ball, the director) told me how he doesn’t like the YA label for this series and how he tried to go for something more adult. I personally felt that especially the film adaptation of this book series manages to bring something fresh to the genre. What made it interesting for you to get on board and made it stand out from becoming just another Hunger Games?

I think our underlying kind of theme was that we were never going to make it a romance. We weren’t going to have those silly moments where they are about to die and they look at each other and hold hands because it just doesn’t make sense. Wes always wanted it to be as real as possible and organic. I love with this movies as well that you’re not told what’s going on, there’s no opening monologue, there’s no information. The character opens his eyes and you open your eyes and you have to go along with him.


It makes you think it’s not easy, it can be complicated and difficult and it pushes you to make your own opinion, especially in this second movie with Teresa’s decision and I think that’s quite rare. We respect our audiences’ intelligence and their right to make up their own minds.

That’s something that Wes has really pushed forward since the very beginning. He’s a genius and you might think that because of his VFX background, he wouldn’t know how to talk to actors about characters but he really does and he always thinks of the entire plot.

Do you think there’s a particular reason why there’s been such a British invasion of acting talent in Hollywood? And it’s happening more and more also with young thespians like you. The first film alone had three Brits in main roles.

I think we’re so lucky to come from a culture of theatre and Shakespeare. The desire to act is kind of embedded in our blood. I also think we’re more inclined to appreciate the artistic side of it instead of the fame. We haven’t gone to Hollywood to be famous. We’ve built ourselves up from Britain and gone over there, so it’s great when people appreciate that. We’re a tiny little island so I think it’s impressive that so many of us are doing well.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is out in UK cinemas now

Francesco Cerniglia – Film Editor