The second episode of MTV’s much-discussed teen drama Skins focused on lesbian Tea (Sofia Black D’Elia) and her own struggles with revealing her sexuality to her tight-knit family. D’Elia, a 19-year old New Jersey native who had previously only acted professionally in a brief stint on the soap All My Children, said she based Tea on one of her high school pals. “Tea for me actually was very similar to one of my friends growing up in high school,” says D’Elia. “I kind of used her as my sounding board.” EW talked to the actress more about last night’s emotional episode as well as the controversy surrounding the rookie series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Were you familiar with the British version of the show?
SOFIA BLACK D’ELIA: Yeah, I was a huge fan of the original. While I was auditioning I had just finished season 3. Big “generation two” fan.
What was the audition process like for Skins?
I was part of the first batch of agency set up auditions. I wasn’t through the open call. But it was still the same kind of feel: a very large group of neurotic teenagers trying to impress a casting agency and stand out. I had auditioned for [the character of] Michelle because Tea hadn’t been written yet. Towards the end of the audition process, I got a call saying “You didn’t get Michelle” and I was devastated for ten seconds but they said, “They want you to audition for Tea.” The audition process was definitely long and grueling.
Describe Tea in your own words.
I would say Tea on the surface is [a] very confident, tough, hang-with-the-boys kind of chick. At first glance, she’s kind of unrelatable because I don’t know many teenagers that have that air of confidence and her bravado. But underneath it all she’s just as unsure as the rest of us. You go home with her and you see that her family truly cares about her and that’s kind of a rarity on Skins. At the same time, because of their backgrounds and beliefs and what not, she has this undeniable fear of showing her true colors. She can be as free as she wants with her friends but as soon as she goes home she has to shut down. I think her biggest fear is that she’ll disappoint the people who care about her the most which is her dad.
Last night, Tea hooked up both with Betty and with Tony. Why do you think she’s drawn to Tony?
Tony is one of the few people that can keep her on her toes. Betty is this character that seemingly is great for Tea because she’s a girl and somewhat interested but then Tea still finds herself bored. I think the Tony/Tea relationship works both ways because I think Tony kinda feels the same way about Michelle. For all intents and purposes, she’s perfect for him: she’s gorgeous, she’s the hottest girl in school and makes Tony feel cool. But at the end of the day, he’s still bored. That’s kind of why I think [Tea and Tony are] attracted to each other because this one relationship, as impossible as it is for so many reasons, is the only relationship in both of their lives that feels new and exciting and interesting.
You had some pretty racy scenes in last night’s episode. Were those awkward to film?
Yeah absolutely. What’s interesting is that in the aftermath of filming the show, what people latch onto are the racy scenes. But for us while filming, we never latched onto them because they were just another day. The crew never made it feel like we had anything to worry about. We walked on set and no matter what we were doing, no matter if it was an emotional scene with my grandmother or a sex scene with a girl, I felt the same way: how am I going to get my emotion out in this scene. I’m more worried about my acting abilities than my nerves about being undressed in front of a crew. We got really really lucky with the people that surrounded us on this show. They were supportive and trusting and an extended family for the cast. So those scenes were for us just another day. I know that now they seem like much more than that, which is kind of unfortunate for us because they’re not what we’re most proud of and what we feel the heart of the show is. Hopefully, over time, people will let go of the worry of the raciness of the show and the scandal because it’s much deeper.
You brought up the controversy surrounding the show’s sexual content. What’s your take on that?
It is a little bit more than I was hoping for only because I was hoping that once the show came out people would see that it’s much more than the sex and the drugs — because it is. I think certain parents will have a harder time stomaching it. At the same time, I can only say that I’m so proud of what we’ve done collectively. Everyone involved in this show cares so deeply about the heart behind it and the work we’ve put in. For me, I’m excited for people to see what else there is to Skins and I think they’re in store for a shock because right now all they think it is is underage kids doing sex scenes and that’s maybe 2 minutes out of a 45 minute episode that involves heartbreak and really honest performances and truthful story lines. For right now, as a cast, it’s a hard stage to be in to have people judging something we care so deeply about. I’m much more concerned with the opinions of the teenagers of America than the parents, because that’s who we were trying to reach.