‘In my Skin’ is an award-winning BBC dark comedy series that is due for release on BBC Three on 29th March 2020.
Our Time was delighted to be invited to the screening of episodes two and three which illustrate the experience of a teenage girl, Bethan (Gabrielle Creevy), as she navigates life as a young person of a parent with a mental illness.
“Bethan desperately tries to keep the truth of her home life a secret from her friends. But when your mother ( played by Jo Hartley) is sectioned in a mental facility near your school and has a penchant for breaking out, and your father (played by Rhodri Meilir) is a Hell’s Angel who drives a rag and bone truck, flying under the radar isn’t so easy. Nevertheless, Bethan is determined to save her own blushes. But her cheek and wit can only carry her so far, as she digs herself deeper and deeper into a hole of her own lies.”
In a BBC interview with the writer, Kayleigh Llewellyn said the following:
“In My Skin is a coming of age story set in Cardiff, told through the eyes of a teen girl, Bethan, portrayed exquisitely by Gabrielle Creevy. The show is a reflection on my teen years – a time when I felt deep shame to be from an underclass Welsh family that was living with mental illness. My mum has bipolar disorder and when I was growing up would frequently be sectioned for long spells in a mental hospital, based minutes away from my school. I lived in fear that my friends would find out, that they would judge us, that I’d be ostracised. It’s only now, in writing my story 15 years later, that I’ve realised just how many other people are living through similar situations. Mental illness affects so many lives and yet it’s still so surrounded by stigma. I wish I could go back in time and tell my teenage self that she didn’t need to hide. But since I don’t have a time machine, I thought I’d write a TV show and tell everyone else instead…”
The cast took part in a Q&A after the screening and here are a few highlights:
Q&A with Jo Hartley (Trina Gwyndaf) who plays the mother
What was it like playing Trina?
It was a gift, an education in some respects, I learned a lot. I found myself empathising more with people who have to live with Bipolar. There’s a duty of care, so I worked hard on prep. Some days were mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting, but we laughed a lot too. I felt loved and supported throughout the process and was given a safe environment to work in. From an actors point of view, it was an opportunity to transform, completely let go and experience a new way of performing, cathartic. Whilst being aware of the sensitive nature of the topic and my responsibilities; I also had to fully let go of all expectations, including my own and trust my higher power would work through me to deliver the best performance possible. The prep was in place, so all I had to do was get out of the way, essentially.
And what was the biggest challenge in taking on the role?
Finding Trina’s authenticity, the character’s truth and a version of bipolar, which is pretty incomprehensible if you’ve never experienced hyper-mania or an episode. The challenge was not to overperform or cover a whole spectrum of bipolar. Just to allow myself to investigate the complexities, layers, sensations and emotions of the character, becoming the best version of Trina I could possibly be.
How did you get into character for the role?
It was an intimate process. Confidence and imagination were crucial. It was a physical, emotionally and spiritually demanding experience; extensive discussions with Kayleigh and Lucy, asking questions, creating a back story, discovering who Trina is, what motivates her, then allowing some of those real-life elements we’d discussed to inform my performance.
Preparation was key; learning lines thoroughly, using all five senses; emotional recall, breathwork, body scanning, sensation, visualisation, physical movement. I used every distraction on set to my advantage. Hair and makeup was a huge part. Music; I created a playlist. New Order and Hildur Guõnadóttir helped, her music is powerful. Research; movies, YouTube clips, observing real-life behaviour. I have a good friend who’s bipolar, so we spent time together. Camilla Leach, from Bipolar UK talked me through all the different stages of bipolar, as every case is unique. Lucy and I came up with a scale of 1-5, which we used on set for performance, that represented the level of mania or hyper-mania.
I created image boards. This allowed me to be in the scene physically with Gabby, whilst remaining mentally detached from her, so I had a separate narrative running through the scene. We used improvisation, although scripted, Kayleigh and Lucy encouraged me to come off book, be spontaneous, keep things fluid, real. I just tried things that were alien to me. Played about with ideas, acted, listened then re-act, I followed intuition.
Environment; On Lucy’s request, I remained isolated from everyone and stayed in character most of the time throughout, I do believe that enhanced my performance. The crew on this job were so kind and supportive, everyone was.
Q&A with Gabrielle Creevy (Bethan Gwyndaf)
What can you tell us about your character Bethan?
Bethan has a complicated life and the only thing she wants is normality (or what she sees as being a normal life) like every other 16-year-old. She’s striving to be someone, in fact, deep down she knows she can be someone, but confidence, self-love and a whole load of other things get in the way. She has a heart of gold and her mum is her number one priority. She’s an easy target to most people because she doesn’t retaliate but I’m telling you now you are going to see some feisty/sassy Bethan Gwyndaf.
Throughout the series we see her take on a parent-like role with her mum Katrina, how would you describe their relationship?
I’d describe it as a rollercoaster with a capital R. Up’s and down’s but their love always wins. They are a team and they’d be lost without each other. Both have their struggles and even though the roles are reversed at times it doesn’t stop Bethan fighting for her. It makes them stronger. Bethan only wants her mum to get better and be the mum she knows she can be, but I guess life isn’t that simple.
Why do you think Bethan doesn’t reveal her true home life to her friends?
She’s afraid of being judged, left alone and deep down she doesn’t want her mum getting hurt. Also, she’s at that age where people can be nasty with words so she knows what the outcome will be… name-calling, mocking, rumours, etc. She can’t handle that. She might be thick-skinned, but as we all know, life gets a bit much sometimes and this would be the icing on the cake for Bethan. She copes with so much at home between caring for her mum to dealing with her dad, so even telling her close friends would break her.
For more information and to watch the series when available visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0871pn8 and if you watch the series, let us know what you think either by emailing us at email@example.com or via our social media channels.