Rophy recently got the opportunity to ask Jack Thorne a few questions. Yes, you heard correctly. The Jack Thorne. Writer of some of the most shiny and delicious episodes of Skins – Naomi’s lone marvel among them – and the man at the helm of the Skins movie…
Don’t get too excited though. He’s as silent as the grave on that subject. We were told from the outset that he couldn’t talk about it, so we figured asking questions would be pointless… But you have no idea how tempting it was to just write ‘MOVIE MOVIE MOVIE’ between each one. This best behaviour stuff is hard.
Right, let’s get started…
Rophy says: Some swoony introductory stuff that will remain between Rophy and, perhaps somewhat regrettably, Jack Thorne (and Heather Hogan because this is a Ropher operation – all the best ones are.)
You guys can have it in drawing form…
Rophy says: How did you come to be writing for Skins?
Jack Thorne says: I wrote a play – in fact, I wrote a lot of plays – and they were all massively unsuccessful and no-one put them on – and then the Bush theatre decided they liked a play I’d written called When You Cure Me. And Jamie came and saw a reading of it and liked it and he then came and saw the production, he liked it more, so he told Bryan to come – and Bryan asked me to come work on his new show that night. Incidentally, quite a few of the other writers have come from the Bush too – Ben Schiffer, Lucy Kirkwood…all originated there.
Rophy says: How involved were you at the start of each generation? Did you sit with everyone else in the writing room, fleshing out these characters and storylines?
Jack Thorne says: No. Characters were all there when I arrived – created by Jamie and Bryan. Though I did give them all their surnames for some reason. Then I left the show at the end of series 2 with the gen 1 characters – so when it came to create the gen 2 characters – which was a collaborative adventure between Bryan, Jamie, Ben, Lucy, Daniel – I missed it. But, unlike other shows, Bryan is a very generous showrunner so allowed us quite a lot of latitude in changing things around in the episodes themselves, particularly in series 1 where things were more fluid and the tone of the show was still being found. But now I’m answering your next question….
Rophy says: We’ve heard that some writers were responsible for certain characters, eg. Jamie Brittain and Cook. Did you have more input into some characters over others? eg. Chris, Effy, Naomi, Sketch whose first episodes you wrote?
Jack Thorne says: Well, Jamie IS Sid (sort of) – so no-one can be more possessive of a character than that. And, yeah, Cook was a burning hole in his heart… For me, yes, I do feel incredibly attached to Chris – because that was sort of the second episode of the show written (Ep 1 had been written, I was writing ep 4 as Bryan was writing the wonderful ep 2, and Jamie the wonderful ep 5) and Bryan and Jamie let me change quite a lot of stuff about Chris as a result and adapted their own scripts a bit to suit mine (as I did mine with what they were writing – it was a really fun time). I think of all the characters I’ve written, he’s most similar to me (though Naomi has a lot of similarities too). That said, I’m nothing like as cool as Chris or, you know, fun, just similarly bewildered by life.
Effy – I think I’m right in saying – wasn’t intended as a major part of the show – she was going to be a flitting presence but talking about Tony a lot in the writer’s room, she became increasingly important, so I asked to write an ep about her (was going to be Anwar’s ep – sorry Anwar) and Bryan thought that could be a good idea – and Bryan had kept her silent in ep 1 and I asked to keep her silent and so she was written in other eps in the series – also silent and that became her thing for a while. Oh, and I love Sketch. And yes, I created her, though Jamie came up with the name.
Rophy says: Wow. You delivered us from Anwar and led us into Effy. We love you even more than we thought, Jack Thorne. Though having said that, we’d probably have been fawning over your Anwar episode and wound up making a fansite for the character…
Anyway, when did you find out that you would be writing Naomi’s episode? Did you ask to be involved in her episode?
Jack Thorne says: No. Only one I didn’t choose. Atiha [Rophy says: Atiha Sen Gupta, co-writer for 306] may have chosen her or she may have been given her.
Rophy says: Back to gen 1 for a moment. You wrote two really important episodes in the first series, Chris’s first episode and Effy’s first episode.
When you wrote Chris’s first episode, were you aware that he was going to fall prey, in the second series, to his brother’s illness?
Jack Thorne says: No. Bryan’s idea. And then Daniel Kaluuya came up with the idea it was related to his brother’s death and everyone went ‘that’s genius’ – because it was.
Rophy says: No arguments here. Was there a plan to move Chris and Jal from close friendship to something more, or was that a creative decision that grew out of your writing for them in that episode?
Jack Thorne says: Actually, that was the fans, they started talking about it between series 1 and 2 and me and Jamie always spent ages on the forums and then we pitched it to the rest of the room and Ben Schiffer (who wrote his ep in series 2) took it to a beautiful place.
Rophy says: How did you feel about Chris’s death?
Jack Thorne says: I still mourn Chris – wish I was still writing him now.
So whose idea was it to have him actually DROP THE BABY in 104. Our eyes were dinner plates.
Jack Thorne says: Ah yes, that was me. Sorry. My sister was pregnant at the time and kept a careful eye on me when I picked up her baby for the first time. Though then my Dad actually dropped him. But that’s another story.
Rophy says: Onto Effy, the only character to span all four of the series to date. How challenging was it writing an episode that centered around a character who refused to speak?
Jack Thorne says: I wanted to do it, it was my plan, but yeah – it was a bit more challenging than I thought. Probably the hardest script I wrote on the show that one.
Rophy says: Did you write Effy’s ‘Pop’ unseen, which had so many parallels to 405 that Sophy nearly pee’d herself in analytical excitement?
Jack Thorne says: I did write Pop. Yes. We were always gutted we couldn’t put that on the web (they decided to hold it back for the DVD) because it was written to parallel 1.8. But paralleling 4.5 – not deliberate – I wasn’t involved in series 4 at all.
Rophy says: Sean Buckley must have studied your work good!
Sketch. Was it scary introducing a new character in the second series? Was it scary introducing such a controversial character? You managed to make her both frightening and sympathetic at the same time. What’s the trick to that?
Jack Thorne says: Yeah, she was controversial wasn’t she…. Hmmm… And as for her being frightening and sympathetic – she’s a kid, she’s not really frightening, she just doesn’t understand how to be close to people.
Rophy says: So, you wouldn’t find it frightening, if say, for instance, Rophy had a collage of photos of you on their wall and snuck into your room one night to -
Anyway. Had you always planned to give Sketch the kind of poignant non-resolution she got in the finale, in which we never see more than her standing at the bus station after Anwar has left without a backward glance? What do you think happened to Sketch? Give us a bit of a ‘Where are they now?’ if you will.
Jack Thorne says: As a viewer I like making my own shit up about where the characters go. So I’m not going to say where Sketch ends up. But yeah – always wanted her to be the character left behind.
Rophy says: Technically you never wrote an episode for Tony, but Effy’s s1 episode is pretty Tony-heavy, so we’re still going to quiz you.
Some people seem to think that Tony’s journey can be reduced to ‘Got hit by a bus, became a new person’, but we think it’s pretty clear that the seeds of his transformation were actually sown in Effy’s episode. When you wrote his scene with Sid at the hospital did you intend that to be the beginning of real change for Tony, regardless of whether he’d been hit by the bus? Basically could you give us any personal insights into Tony’s character arc?
Jack Thorne says: I think that’s why the idea of Effy’s episode came about – we wanted to show his vulnerability. And because he loves her totally. As I do my sister – who is called Elizabeth. Which is not what Bryan thought Effy’s full name was. I wrote it in the script and it stuck but I think he remains unhappy.
And yeah – was supposed to be the beginning of change – but what Bryan wanted to do was screw with that – which is one of the many things Bryan is brilliant at – subverting expectations – so he put Tony in a coma. I love the character of Tony – I think Skins did something brilliant with him. I remember all the criticism we got when we first came out (the reviews were pretty horrible – most said ‘and we’re supposed to like this guy’ – and we were all – fuck no – you’re just supposed to be interested in him – and slowly, surely, we brought Tony round). I also love Chuck Bass. For similar reasons. Though he’s even more of an anti-hero.
Rophy says: We were a little surprised to find that Bryan Elsley hadn’t written the (absolutely MAGIC OMG) gen 1 finale himself. How much pressure did you feel to do justice to the characters and to the fans?
Jack Thorne says: Lots. Lots. And more lots. Felt honoured to be asked. And yeah – was scary as shit.
Rophy says: Having been entrusted with the hugely important job of rounding off the first generation, you then went on to write one of the most pivotal episodes of the second generation. Again, how much pressure did you feel, given that you were writing the first episode of either of the lesbian characters, the first episode that really delved into their relationship?
Jack Thorne says: Like I say – Atiha was writing it long before I was – I think the best way of describing it was Atiha wrote the first four drafts and then production demands took over (they ran out of time) so I came in to write the last four drafts. And I thought (and I think Atiha thought) it was a love story, which is what I tried to write.
Rophy says: Something that has long frightened Sophy about the idea of writing for TV: How do you let go? You started Effy, Chris and Sketch off, you wrote an episode that went straight to the emotional core of Naomi and Emily… but other writers took over afterward. How did it feel to know that other people were continuing something you had, it seems, put your heart and soul into starting? Basically, are you a possessive control-freak?
Jack Thorne says: I think Ben found writing Chris series 2 difficult because he’s a very good friend of mine and I did sort of try and poke my nose in – but once he told me to fuck off enough times I learnt my lesson. You can’t be a control freak when it’s not your show. In Bryan and Jamie we trust.
Rophy says: How did you feel about the resolution Naomi and Emily’s relationship had in the final episode of gen 2? Do you think that their issues are now behind them, or did you see Naomi’s speech as merely the starting point of their healing?
Jack Thorne says: Like I’m going to say anything about the future for those two – you’re trying to find out about the film and I know it.
Rophy says: Aha! Interesting that at the mention of Naomi and Emily’s future your mind immediately went to the movie. Whereas at the mention of Sketch’s it did not. *strokes beard*
Considering the success of Naomi’s series 3 episode, do you know of any explanation as to why she didn’t get a series 4 episode? JJ’s ukuleles were just that important? Really??? (Bonus points for renouncing ukuleles and all their works if you don’t know the answer.)
Jack Thorne says: JJ’s episode was probably my favourite of the series. Sorry. It had a masturbation scene to George Formby. That’s genius.
Rophy says: Hm. Heather Anne Hogan, you didn’t tamper with this document did you?
We’ll discuss this matter later.
Mr Thorne, is there an episode, whether from gen 1 or gen 2 that you would have liked to have written? Or just a character you would have liked to have written an episode for?
Jack Thorne says: Anwar. I don’t think we did him justice. Which is partly my fault. JJ. I’d like to have written for him. Oh, and I wanted to do Tony’s series 2 episode, but Jamie had a brilliant idea for it. So we fought naked and he won.
Rophy says: What is your favourite episode that you have written? Your favourite episode written by somebody else?
Jack Thorne says: I can’t decide that for my stuff – of other peoples… I love Cassie’s ep and Sid’s ep in series 1, Sid’s ep in series 2 probably my fav ever, also love Chris’s ep and Cassie’s ep in that series, series 3, big big big fan of Effy’s ep, and I could go on…But I won’t.
Rophy says: What a coincidence, Rophy loves all of those too. So much in common! Okay so Rophy pretty much just loves every episode of Skins
up to 406, but still. Soulmates for life type thing.
Moving on. How much time did you spend on set? Were you present when your episodes were filmed?
Jack Thorne says: I don’t like being on set. I’m quite shy. So even when it’s something I originated I haven’t gone to set.
Rophy says: Who has been your favourite Skins director to work with? Feel free to be all gallant and just wax lyrical about all of them. We have your number, Jack Thorne.
Well… we don’t actually have your number. Which is probably lucky for you. *smooths jean shorts*
Jack Thorne says: Oh, it’s 079…
Adam Smith is a God. Charles Martin is also a God. They’re also both my mates. I thought Simon Massey did a beautiful job of ep 6, series 3, and Aysha Rafaele did a great job on the Sketch episode. Oh, and of all the new ones that started after I finished – I thought Esther May Campbell did an extraordinary job last year. And I’ve never met her and probably will never work with her. Which is a shame. Is that waxing? Have I waxed?
Rophy says: You have waxed. Or shaved. Either way you have no eyebrows!
When watching your episodes were you ever surprised by how they turned out? Have you ever thought ‘Oh gosh, that’s not what I expected, how interesting,’ or thought ‘Wow, that could not have been closer to what I saw in my head’? Are there any particular touches that Lily and Kat brought to 306 that pleased or excited you?
Jack Thorne says: All the time. In every way. My fav scene in 3.6 is when Emily comes round the house with the forms – and they talk about what lesbians DO – thought they were brilliant at that, just caught the tone perfectly.
Rophy says: Did Lily and Kat ever talk to you about their roles and their relationship in 306? What advice, if any, did you have for them, on how to make Naomi and Emily’s love real?
Jack Thorne says: Only met them at read-through and even then it was ‘hi’.
Rophy says: Wow. You weren’t kidding about being shy.
Skins has an impressive swag of guest-stars from awesome British comedy shows. We just about died when Bill Bailey popped up line-dancing with a dog in ‘Tony and Maxxie.’ Amazing.
Jack Thorne says: When Bryan said Bill Bailey was playing Maxxie’s Dad – I think we all died.
Rophy says: You’ve had some great guest-stars in your eps too, eg. the guy from Spaced in the gen 1 finale, and in 306, Dougal from Father Ted and Sophie from Peepshow.
MOVIE MOVIE MOVIE
When you were writing the episodes did you have those actors in mind? If not, were you excited when you found they had been cast? Did you meet them? Who’s funniest.
Jack Thorne says: Jamie’s never forgiven me for getting to work with Mark Heap. I think he’s one of his favourite actors. But yes – all amazing. Wish I’d got to write a line for Peter Capaldi. He’s one of my favourite actors – I keep seeing him at things like Bryan’s wedding and failing to go up and say hi.
Rophy says: We had to imdb Peter Capaldi. Sid’s dad! Sid’s dad was the best. Sophy saw him on Foyle’s War and squealed with delight.
Do you have any plans to work with Jamie Brittain on Skins gen 3?
Jack Thorne says: No. I’m sort of busy.
Rophy says: Oh really. Tease.
We heard you’ve completed a pilot called ‘The Fades’. Could you tell us a little about it?
Jack Thorne says: Sadly not.
Well we do know that Lily has been cast in the show. Did you have a hand in this? Is she the Leo to your Scorsese?
Jack Thorne says: Yes, though I prefer to think of her as my De Niro. And I’d rather be Paul Schrader thanks.
Rophy says: That can be arranged. Is there another actor from the Skins cast you’d particularly like to write for on another project?
Jack Thorne says: They’re all awesome. I expect to work with them all at some point. I’ve also written something else that Kat is in. And Joe Dempsie has been in quite a bit of stuff I’ve done. And I’m pretty good mates with Nick Hoult and Mike Bailey, or at least we text every now and again. They tell me about their high glamour life, I tell them about what I didn’t do today.
Rophy says: There was some controversy in the fandom over a certain event that took place toward the end of s4. Some fans were abusive toward Jamie Brittain on twitter, and we remember that you were one of the people to defend him – to say judge the work, but don’t judge the man. You’ve never written anything so guaranteed to draw strong responses as Freddie’s death-by-baseball-bat, but you haven’t shied away from the shocking scenes either. We’re thinking particularly of the scene in which Josh punishes Tony by drugging his sister and threatening to let her die unless he rapes her. Did you worry about fan response to that? Do you ever worry? Basically, is the fandom a scary place?
Jack Thorne says: Yes. It is. But on series 1 we had no idea the show would be as popular as it was. So fandom wasn’t a concern – audience was. Pitching that episode to the writer’s room was the funnest thing ever. Actually got gasps when I got to the bit where Josh said Tony had to fuck Effy.
Rophy says: Gasps! Rophy lives for gasps. Both the giving and receiving thereof.
Now we’d like to take a moment to ask you about Cast-Offs, which we watched in preparation for this interview and duly fell in love with. [Rophites, watch Cast-Offs. You won't be disappointed. Or you'll have us to answer to. Buy it @ Amazon UK, Amazon US]
Jack Thorne says: Thank you!
Rophy says: When we started watching the series, we were both very delighted to see a little Australian. We’re both little and Australian, do we see Cast-Offs in our future? Or is this simply a pipe dream? Let us down easy Jack Thorne.
Jack Thorne says: I don’t quite understand this question – there is a possibility the show will be shown in Australia if that’s the question. But being little and Australian is a good thing. And Kiruna is a great actress. Getting a lot of work at the moment too – expect to see her in lots of other things.
Rophy says: Fine. Play dumb.
You are listed as creator, so tell us, creative one, where did the idea come from? We read something as we were wrapping these questions up that you posted at Don’t Play Me Pay Me, in which you spoke about eyebrows and the lack of them as well as your own disability - Cholinergic Urticaria. Was your own experience a catalyst to creating the show?
Jack Thorne says: Yes. Very much so. Dan’s story is sort of my story – adjusting to the experience of being a disabled person. Though it is different being in a chair obviously. I co-created the show though and lots of people had a huge role in how it turned out. It was a great experience.
Rophy says: We’ve seen people on the web label the show exploitative, which we think is probably because they haven’t seen it. What do you make of the irony that this is a show which gathers together disabled people – what might so easily be a ‘freak show’ – but is in fact a show which allows disabled actors to take on roles that are so much more than just ‘blind man in lift’ – they get to play people, instead of disabilities.
Jack Thorne says: I think the show did what it did. I’m proud we’ve got nominated for awards for it. We made it for no money (the whole series cost the same amount as one episode of Skins) – no-one really got paid properly – and I think some of the directing, some of the writing (particularly the bits I didn’t do) and in particular the acting is extraordinary.
Rophy says: “Particularly the bits I didn’t do.” You and Heather Hogan, always so self-deprecating. Though at least you have the excuse of being British.
Was it your aim with Cast-Offs to try to remove some of the stigma associated with physical disabilities, in the acting world and generally?
Jack Thorne says: Yes. We have a huge problem with how we look at disabled people. Though this country is ahead of most.
Rophy says: How involved were you with the casting process for the show? Did you audition a lot of people? Was it hard to whittle it down to just six actors?
Jack Thorne says: I wanted to do things slightly differently – so we didn’t write the parts until we cast the characters. So our casting process was – we need to meet every disabled actor in the country – we certainly met a lot – and I was so proud of our cast.
Rophy says: Is there a possibility of a second series?
Jack Thorne says: No. Sadly only a one series project – no way of getting them back on the island. Channel 4 were interested – but we decided we’d rather leave it in its own little place.
Rophy says: Rin is a designer by day, and her pants were falling off all over the place at certain points during Cast-Offs. Did the beauty of Skins influence that at all?
Jack Thorne says: That was all about the direction – Amanda Boyle (who is now working on Skins – where she’ll totally rock) and Miranda Bowen (who is working on a different project for Company Pictures who make Skins). Company is clever to have snapped them up.
Rophy says: Which of the actors would you most like to write a role for in a future show? Again, we’ll let gallantry slide if you just want to gush about them all.
Jack Thorne says: Well, Thomas Turgoose (who played Will’s son Jake) was in my film, Cast-offs, and is the lead in the new show I’ve spent the last year working on This Is England 86. The boy is a genius. But yes, I can’t wait to write for all the Cast-offs.
Rophy says: We like gushing too. So we’re going to be doing some rophying of Cast-Offs at some point, Jack Thorne. Be afraid.
Jack Thorne says: That’d be most awesome. Most awesome.
Rophy says: Speaking of which, how does it feel to see your hard work broken down, Rophy-style? Especially when we used a picture of you in one of our macros? Which we hope you’ll forgive us for.
Jack Thorne says: Love it.
Rophy says: We’ll wire the money to you forthwith.
In the 306 rophycap, we had a bit of a fanwank going on about Naomi’s tights. Many people see the fact that she’s tightsless in one scene and tightful in the next as a production goof, but to us it seemed like it was a response to falling on her arse and having Cook make a joke about seeing her knickers. One of our commenters in turn suggested that it’s simply because she was planning to ride her bike home and bikes and short skirts don’t mix. Can you clear this up for us? (Bonus points for just agreeing with Rophy if you don’t have an answer.)
Jack Thorne: Totally deliberate. That’s Edward Gibbon – the costume designer for all four series – the man is great – he misses nothing – and is a total example of the creative space Bryan allows on the show – he’ll have made the decision because it’s the decision the character would have made. I didn’t write it, he just found it.
Rophy says: VINDICATED.
Okay, just a couple more questions…
How awesome is Heather Hogan? Pretty awesome, huh?
Jack Thorne says: Very awesome. And Bryan is taking her to lunch I see on twitter this morning. Which is aces.
Rophy says: Aces, indeed!
And finally, best till last and all that: who’s the better stalker: Sketch or Sophia?
Jack Thorne says: I was there first. Sketch.
Rophy says: In conclusion, we love Jack Thorne. And we love Heather Hogan and her interview with him, which you can read at After Ellen. If you haven’t already read that one, click on the doubtless tantalizing image below now. NOW!
PS. Rophy cannot guarantee that Heather’s interview with Mr Thorne will be available immediately. Sorry to get your hopes up if it’s not there yet. But think of it this way: now you have something to look forward to!