Sophia Black-D’Elia and Blaine Morris Discuss Life on the Set of “Skins”


Sofia Black-D’Elia (left) and Blaine Morris (right) star as Tea and Betty on MTV’s adaptation of the British television series “Skins.” (Courtesy of Blaine Morris )

Published: April 13, 2011

New Jersey natives Sofia Black-D’Elia, 19, and Blaine Morris, 19, are the breakout stars of MTV’s “Skins,” a show that has generated criticism for going too far with its depiction of teen life. While the actresses play love interests on-screen, in real life, they’re good friends who grew up together and now share an apartment in Manhattan (Morris does the cooking, Black-D’Elia, the cleaning). The Observer spoke with these actively-tweeting actresses who are waiting to hear about a second season of “Skins.”

Observer: How did you hear about “Skins?”

Sofia Black-D’Elia: “Skins” was just another audition that my agent had set up for me, but I was a big fan of the original show beforehand so I think I went in with a different mindset than I usually do. It was the first time I felt the weight of really wanting a part.

Observer: Do you relate to your character of Tea? She appears tough and confident, but at the end of the season, you see she’s actually insecure.

SBD: I think a lot of girls do, whether they realize it or not. She’s really cool and pretty and can hang with the guys, but at the end of the day, she still has no idea what she wants. She finds it easier to run away from things then to confront them head on. I think those things are extremely easy for me to relate to, especially the lack of confrontation and the insecurity.

Observer: There are a lot of alcohol and drugs on “Skins.” Do you think the show is representative of real high school life?

SBD: I think it can be a great depiction of certain teenagers’ lives. It really represents a group of middle-class teenagers and each of them come from somewhat bizarre homes. “Skins” never said that it was representing every group of teenagers, just like it was never saying that Tea was representing every lesbian. The show doesn’t create a stereotypical idea of teenage life. If you watch the show, I think it’s obvious that the kids aren’t relying on drugs and alcohol. They’re relying on each other.

Observer: Was it awkward to have sex scenes with a guy and a girl?

SBD: A bit. I mean it was interesting because I knew they had to be very different. I was trying really hard in both scenes, but there’s nothing you can really do except give it your best shot and hope it comes across as true to the moment.

Observer: Who was easier to kiss on the show, Blaine Morris (who plays “Betty”) or James Newman (who plays “Tony”)?

SBD: Well I’m straight, so it was much easier for me to kiss James than Blaine, but at the end of it, kissing Blaine felt just as easy as kissing a guy because we did it so much and it became so easy. I remember the first time [Blaine and I] had to do a make out scene. We looked at each other and pounded fists and were like, “Let’s just do this!”

Observer: There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the show because some of the content is considered too racy. Were any of the scenes toned down or cut out after they were filmed?

SBD: No. We never did anything that pushed legal boundaries. We never did anything that made us think, “O.K., we’ve gone too far.” The show is what we were always intending to put out and if people don’t like it, then that’s their prerogative.

Observer: “Skins” was shot in Canada, so if you weren’t shooting a scene, what were you doing?

SBD: We were up there for four months so it was like a college experience for us. I was on my own in another country without my family. We just had a really incredible time. We were all really close—there was a lot of trust.

Observer: What was it like to see your billboard in Times Square?

SBD: Bizarre. Just weird. You always try to make this job feel normal, but with moments like that, it’s kind of impossible.

Observer: Like a good weird?

SBD: When I went to see it with my mother, it was a very good weird. It was a dream come true. And then when I went to see it alone, it was just too weird.

Observer: So I have to know, what was it like to have Justin Bieber follow you on Twitter?

SBD: [laughs] I’m pretty sure that someone runs his Twitter and did that on their own. I don’t think he actually went out looking for me and found me on Twitter, although that’d be a nice thought.

The Observer: What does a typical day on set look like?

Blaine Morris: We get picked up at 5:20 in the morning and do hair and makeup by 6-ish. We’re done at 7, then usually we wait 45 minutes until the crew is ready. It depends on what order the scene is in. I’ve come in some mornings and wouldn’t shoot until 7 p.m.

Observer: Were you ever uncomfortable on set?

BM: Probably right before the sex scene [with Sofia]. I was going through 100 scenarios like, “How can I get out of this?” And I’m like, “I can’t. This is my job.”

Observer: What was it like to shoot that scene?

BM: It was just a very weird experience because it’s such a private moment but we were surrounded by 15 people. We both didn’t know what to expect. That was probably the raunchiest sex scene on the show.

Observer: Lots of people have been bashing “Skins,” like the Parents Television Council and advertisers, for the drug use on the show. They’ve also called it child pornography. Do you think there is any basis for their claims?

BM: I think it’s because we are actual teenagers doing teenage things. The level of realism is closer to home. You go on the [Parents Television Council’s] website and literally every show on TV is not acceptable for children. They had problems with the scene of Jesse Carere (who plays Chris) walking down the street naked but it was symbolic. It wasn’t sexual.

Observer: Do you think some of what’s shown on “Skins” is too racy for television?

BM: I’ve watched every episode of the UK version of the show and they go so much farther than we do because of different censorship rules—there’s full frontal nudity. I think we could have gone farther than we did.

Observer: Does the show have any crazy fans?

BM: I think in forums, they get angry over Tony and Tea. They don’t realize I’m a character. They’ll ask, “Why did you say that line? Why are you so awkward?” I’m like,

“Those are my scenes. It’s in the script. It’s supposed to be awkward.”

Observer: Is it hard being under 21 in the city?

BM: Yeah, it sucks. I was so excited to live in the city. Even at Webster Hall, shows are 21-plus now. I can’t even walk in. I just want to listen to good music and they won’t even let you past the door.

Observer: Have you tried saying, “Hey I’m in ‘Skins’!” to get in?

BM: I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. These big black guys are like, “I don’t watch that show.” I tried to get into Cafeteria at five o’clock in the morning and they wouldn’t let me in. I just wanted a grilled cheese. Who’s coming in at 5 a.m.? I tweeted my anger at them so it’s O.K.

Observer: Outside of “Skins,” what kind of character do you want to play next?

BM: Besides “Skins,” which will hopefully have a season two, I’d love to be in a bad ass Sin City-style movie. That would be really fun.