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'Skins' star Hannah Murray

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'Skins' star Hannah Murray
A huge marketing push ensured a stellar launch for Skins last week, with more than 1.4 million viewers tuning in to see what all the fuss was about.

The drama, from the team behind Shameless and with writers such as Josie Long and Simon Amstell penning scripts, centres around a group of Bristol teens succumbing to the many sins and pleasures of teenage life - sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll a plenty.

Each week the focus is on a different character and this week it's the turn of Cassie, a "skinny bonkers girl" who is battling an eating disorder, amongst other things.

DS chats to actress Hannah Murray about playing the part, what's in store for Cassie and how it feels to be part of the Skins bubble.

Could you start by explaining the premise of the show, as you see it?
"Skins is about a group of teenagers in Bristol, and it's all about what they get up to and all the different things they do. I think it's a good show because it's come from a very real place and there's a lot of young people involved in the writing. We're all sort of the age of the characters we're playing. I think it's a very exciting thing, because it's very different from a lot of shows about teenagers that have been showed before."

There's obviously been a huge amount of promo behind the show - how does that make you feel? Nervous? Excited?
"I dunno, it doesn't quite feel real yet, none of it quite feels real. I've only seen one or two posters where I live and I haven't really seen many adverts on TV. Everyone talks about 'oh, I saw this there' but I haven't seen enough of it to really believe it yet. I can't really believe it because I never thought I could be on a billboard poster so it just seems a bit like a dream at the moment."

And how do you feel seeing your face on a giant poster?
"I dunno, it's very very surreal, it's not the kind of thing - I guess you don't really have a frame of reference to anything else, so it just seems very odd. It doesn't seem like a likely thing to happen, so I guess I haven't really dealt with everything yet - it's all a little bit odd."

Did you think Channel 4/E4 would push it in the way they did?
"When I auditioned, I really wasn't aware. I knew it was a nine part series, I knew it was on E4, but I didn't understand how important it was for them about being their first home grown drama, and I wasn't aware of who was involved. Also, I'd only read one [scene], so it wasn't until I actually got the part and started getting scripts that I realised the quality of the writing and how amazing the whole thing was. That's when I started to think 'actually, this could be something really big'. And then with the ad campaigns and everything.... it's a really important show for E4, and I wasn't aware of that when I first got into it but it's gradually dawned on me."

So tell us a bit about Cassie...
"My character is Cassie. She is very interesting because she has a lot of problems, and she's very troubled, and she's anorexic and completely lacking in self-esteem and self-belief, but along with that she's sort of quite smart. I think that she has quite a good reading on a lot of the other characters about what they're like and how they work and stuff, and I think she's a very clever girl, and she's also kind of silly and dreamy and quite fun at the same time as being a very tragic character. I really like her. I think she's really great."

So an obvious question, but how similar are you to Cassie?
"I don't think I have a lot in common with her in terms of - I don't having an eating disorder, suicidal tendencies or the same home life she does... where her parents are kind of mad, basically. I think that I can identify with feeling vulnerable, or feeling lonely, or when you like a boy and he doesn't like you. I can really feel that in common with her. I think she's a really good character for teenage girls or even teenage boys, because she's kind of an outsider, so she's easy to identify with and feel passion for and empathy with and stuff."

And there are some great guest stars on the show - for example, Neil Morrissey plays your dad, Marcus. How was that?
"It was great. I was nervous because I knew which day he was coming in and I was going to be like... I'd never met anyone that was so familiar on TV, but he was just really lovely and really down to earth and really funny It was really great to work with him, it was really nice."

Do you think Skins compares to any other shows out there now?
"I can understand people might make comparisons to something like The OC or Hollyoaks, but I think it's pretty different to either of those. I can't think of any shows I've watched about teenagers that has the same spirit that Skins has, the same honesty about it. I think they're all a lot more contrived and trying to deal with issues. Skins says 'this is what teenage life can be like', and doesn't say what you have to feel about it, whereas I think a lot of other teenage dramas are like a guidebook for what you should and shouldn't do. I think it's really nice that Skins doesn't deal with issues like that in a preachy way. I mean, it does, it touches on a lot of different things that are problems today, but it doesn't tell you, force it down your throat that you have to think this. It's not patronising, and I think a lot of other teenage dramas tend to be. I can't really think of anything that I've seen that really compares to this."

Now in your episode, which airs this week, it does tackle quite a big issue - anorexia. Did you do much research for those scenes?
"I didn't really do any research. Obviously, anorexia's so talked about that you have a kind of awareness of it. But I didn't want to do any research, because I wanted to explore Cassie and the issues she's going through, through the character. I think what she was going through in the script was so truthful, it was all there and she was there and everything she was going through was there. So I wanted to deal with her anorexia how she would, and obviously she isn't going to have read loads of facts and figures about it. Obviously, as a disorder anorexia is going to be very personal and individual to people, it's caused by all sorts of different things in a person's life. I wanted to explore it from a personal level to her - I think if I had done a lot of research, I might have felt more of a duty or responsibility, because it is a horrible thing that affects so many people, and I think that I didn't want to feel like I had any of that on shoulders, I just wanted to be able to play this girl."

How close do you think Skins comes to depicting the average teen experience?
"I think that obviously things like the sex and the drugs is perhaps slightly exaggerated, because it's the drama, it's the comedy. There are certain characters like ['Mad Twatter], who is obviously a comic exaggeration, and you don't run into people like that in real life. Things like the crashing of the car [are too]... and there's a lot more black eyes in Skins than there are in my life! But on an emotional level, that's where I feel it's really truthful. All the characters - I can recognise them in aspects of myself or aspects of people I know. I think the way all these kids feel and behave - they're bored but they're excited and they're working things out and everything is new to them. I think that's very truthful. I think the character of Tony - he gets so bored - it's weird, because you've got so much going on, but at the same time you are really, really bored by your life. I think that's very true. And I think it's kind of a really good encapsulation of a teenage experience, but obviously not everything you can find in each teenager's life."

Have you seen much of the show yet? What sorts of reaction have you had so far?
"I've seen episodes 1 and 2. I've only watched it with people who've been involved in it. Everyone seems to be really excited about it - it looks really good, the way it's been shot, the quality of the production is really, really good and I think it looks really exciting. It's kind of difficult for me, though, 'cos I hate watching myself. Episode 2 was a really torturous experience to sit through that and just hate everything that I'm doing. It's okay, I think everyone seems to like it. We had a party at the producer's house when we watched episode 1, and several people's parents were there, and they were like 'I think there's too much swearing in it', but I think everyone found something they liked in it. It is for all ages and all audiences because there are really good stories and really good characters, and I think if it's something that makes you laugh, it makes you laugh regardless of age, really."

How does Cassie progress throughout the series?
"It's a strange show in terms of that because every episode focuses on a different character. There are some points when you don't see Cassie very much at all. She gets really into the whole thing of Sid. She really, really likes Sid, and he's just not interested because there's this girl. They become friends and then she becomes who he confides in, which is obviously horrible for her. Because of all that, she gets nearer and nearer to the edge of sanity, and she gets even more mad. There are some things that were pretty emotionally harrowing for me to do with her - I think you've got to watch it to see how it unfolds."

Tease! And how do the cast get along?
"We got on so well. They're all so important to me and so great and I think they're all wonderful, wonderful people. We were all put in a room together the first day we met each other and it just kind of worked and we got on really well all of a sudden. Doing this show for six months, being together so much, going through these different scenes and going through this experience together has made us even, even closer. We've got such a strong bond from that that I think it would have been impossible for us to not have become friends, really!"

And are you game for doing a second series?
"Yeah, I would really, really love to. Fingers crossed at the moment, but yeah, I would really like to."

Skins airs Thursdays at 10pm on E4

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