Film

Kaya Scodelario: "It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life"

Kaya Scodelario has been speaking up about Hollywood’s biggest issues – a lack of working-class voices and #MeToo. The Maze Runner star says it’s definitely time to talk

Kaya Scodelario

Like many young British actors on the ascent in Hollywood (Jack O’Connell, Nicholas Hoult, Dev Patel and Get Out’s Oscar-nominated star Daniel Kaluuya), 25-year-old Kaya Scodelario scored her big break in Skins. As ice-cool Effy Stonem she was one of the mainstays of E4’s hit series, which did so much to diversify the talent pool in this country.

Since graduating from Skins, Scodelario has starred in the latest Pirates of The Caribbean movie and returns as complex heroine Teresa in the third and final film in smash-hit young adult dystopian thriller franchise, Maze Runner: The Death Cure. As her public profile increases, her voice is magnified.

TBI: After #TimesUp and #MeToo are you more optimistic about the film industry?
KS: I am in awe of the women who came out in the Harvey Weinstein scandal. It is ­incredible bravery to stand up to Hollywood because it is a very intimidating place. You are constantly told there are a hundred people behind you that would kill to have your position – so don’t do anything to fuck it up. But we need to keep having the conversations and keep the momentum going. We can’t let it become the norm again.

Hollywood is very intimidating. You are constantly told there are a hundred people that would kill to have your position

You shared your own #MeToo story [Scodelario was sexually assaulted aged 12]. How nerve-wracking is it to put your truth out there?
Definitely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I was fortunate to have the support of my husband and friends. And also, being a mum, I knew I didn’t want that person to have power over me anymore. I wanted to be strong for my son, so he would grow up seeing that women could be powerful and that we won’t hide in the shadows. A lot of people ask me about playing strong female roles to inspire young girls and I say it is to inspire young boys, too. But it was definitely the scariest thing I have ever done. Apart from labour. Labour was worse.

Are more doors opening after the Maze Runner films and Pirates Of The Caribbean?
I hope the doors are opening on more creative things. I have a female writers group that I work with. We discuss different ideas for stories and go through each other’s scripts. I would like to produce stories about where I am from and about being working class. It is much more interesting when someone has had real experiences in the world rather than they just went to a fancy school. Doing Hollywood stuff, I hope, will eventually open more doors for that.

The more time passes, the more we see how Skins expanded the talent pool. You, Jack O’Connell, Daniel Kaluuya made big breakthroughs…
What set us apart from everyone else coming through at that time was that we weren’t in competition with each other. We were grateful to be working. If it wasn’t for Skins, I couldn’t have afforded to go to drama school and it was the same for many of the others. So we have to inspire the next generation to know that is not the case – if you are talented and ready to work hard, your parents’ bank balance shouldn’t come into it.

Do you follow each other’s careers closely?
We told Daniel Kaluuya that he was nominated for the Golden Globe. He was at Pret a Manger and didn’t realise. We were on the group chat and texted him about it. Some of us have families now so we are not raving any more, but we still meet up. It is almost creepy how close we are still.

If you are talented and ready to work hard, your parents’ bank balance shouldn’t come into it

Does the final Maze Runner film end the franchise with a bang?
We were not sure anyone would want to see the first film. But they did. And they keep coming back. This final film is our thank you to the fans for sticking with us for the last five years. We are giving them all the answers they want.

Kaya Scodelario and Aidan Gillen in Maze Runner: The Death Cure
"Is this the haberdashery floor?" Kaya Scodelario and Aidan Gillen in Maze Runner: The Death Cure

There were not many women in the franchise when you started – was that noticeable and has it changed much?
I never felt like the only girl because I was never treated any differently. They are my friends, my co-workers, my ­colleagues, and I was just as respected and worked just as hard. I never felt singled out for being the only woman on set – it felt like we were all doing a job and doing it equally.

Is The Big Issue a magazine you buy when you are at home in London?
It is. My friend Kat Prescott [another Skins alumnus] did an exhibition with The Big Issue and Centrepoint in 2013 that I was part of. It was eye-opening and inspiring because it was centred around young people who, with the help of Centrepoint and The Big Issue, had made something of their lives. It is also very close to my heart because my mum and I spent our first night in London on the streets. I was four years old. We were picked up and put into temporary ­accommodation in a B&B on Holloway Road and then into temporary housing. That is how I started my life in London. So I feel a very personal connection and always buy a copy.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is out on February 2

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