UK rising star Kaya Scodelario joins the young adult movie phenomenon

By Joe UtichiMovies - 08 September 2014 12:00 AM | Updated 6:19 PM

UK rising star Kaya Scodelario joins the young adult movie phenomenon

The Maze Runner

Kaya Scodelario made a big impact on British TV audiences with her first role in E4’s ‘Skins’, which started in 2007.

Then 14, Scodelario had never acted before, but she overcame nerves at the audition and became one of the show’s most enduring characters, starring alongside Nicholas Hoult and Jack O’Connell in the show’s four seasons.

Kaya Scodelario

She made her feature film debut in 2009, in Duncan Jones’s sci-fi indie ‘Moon’, and followed it up in 2010 with roles in ‘Shank’ and ‘Clash Of The Titans’.

She earned critical plaudits for her turn as Cathy in Andrea Arnold’s stripped-back retelling of ‘Wuthering Heights’ in 2011 and starred alongside Dakota Fanning and Jeremy Irvine in the romantic drama ‘Now Is Good’ in 2012.

In Wes Ball’s ‘The Maze Runner’ she plays Teresa, whose arrival into the mysterious Glade takes her fellow teenage captives by surprise: she’s the first girl in their midst. It’s immediately apparent that she has a connection to Dylan O’Brien’s Thomas; a connection that may well explain the Gladers confinement.

Speaking in London ahead of the release of the film, the 21-year-old actress discusses joining the young adult phenomenon, working with Wes Ball and life on the Louisiana set.

How did you hear about the project?

I’d heard about the script going around before I’d read it. A couple of my friends had seen it and said it was really interesting – very different and fun. And then I read it, and I really liked it. I thought it was very cool. It was kind of like a social experiment: how are these kids going to react enclosed in this space? The thought of it made me feel so claustrophobic and so angry. It affected me straight away and I wanted to find out how they got out.

What were your thoughts about the characters?

The characters were so well defined. Not all of them feel the same: there are people that are willing to settle for life in the Glade and want to make that work. And then you have the ones that want to question it, but don’t feel like they can just yet. Thomas comes along and is the catalyst for all these other characters to evolve and open up and find themselves. I found that really interesting. It’s totally what would happen. It would be a weird, self-organised world, and where would you fit into that?

Scodelario (left) with Dylan O'Brien (right) in 'The Maze Runner'

What went into finding Teresa?

It was scary but also very enjoyable to not have to do any research. She has no memory: she’s just turned up there. I wanted to go into it very instinctually. How would she react? It’s a fight or flight kind of thing. The first scene I filmed was me coming up in the box and I remember walking over… I’d met the cast but there were thirty other boys there and I didn’t know any of them. I’m walking on set and I was petrified. Ten minutes later, I’d got on with everyone and we were all chatting, but it’s like that first day of school feeling. I had to get rid of that in myself, because that’s not how she reacts. Straight away she’s in there fighting, throwing things at them. She’s shouting at them. It was interesting to take it in that direction, and it set her up for me for the rest of the film.

She’s strong of will: was that an attraction for you?

Definitely. I’d like to think a lot of girls would react like Teresa in that situation. She knows a lot more than she lets on and she’s internalising a lot. Keeping a lot to herself. I loved that about her, instead of getting there and needing to talk to everyone and share. She’s just thinking quietly, watching and observing. She’s working it out in her head. That is a lot truer, and it sets her up for the second and third instalments if that’s where you learn the truth about her. I liked that she was a bit of a mystery. You don’t just get told everything straight away; you have to invest in it.

The actress (right) in 'Skins'

Mystery is the key word; did reading the script make you want to pick up the other books?

I’ve read the second one now – only recently – because I’d watched this and I thought the time was right. I love it. I think it’s really exciting. I really enjoyed it. Again, it’s another journey. It’s not that everything’s explained straight away. So much is happening and there are lots of new characters.

Was there an element of being the only girl?

I was worried it was going to be really awkward. I knew it wouldn’t be for me, because I have a lot of male friends and I really enjoy male company. I’m really relaxed around boys and I’m quite tomboyish. I was worried they’d be a bit delicate around me. But they weren’t, at all. I got there and they were playing ball games and they were like, “Hi.” And they carried on. It was automatically very relaxed and just a very nice environment. We all messed around together and had fun together. It was like being on a school trip. 

Kaya Scodelario in 'Wuthering Heights'

Does it make a difference to be on location in Louisiana?

It makes such a difference on you, because it’s exciting. None of us had ever been there before, and we were in a hotel together, so we could hang out and go together. There was a Hooters nearby and I’d never been to a Hooters. I was like, “We have to go there – that’s really American!” We all enjoyed the experience together.

There are four Brits in the lead roles. Was it nice to have some hometown faces on set?

Aml [Ameen] was already there – he was the first person I met before Dylan – and he’s from North London, so it was like home. You can talk a certain way and relax a certain way. It’s really relieving. What was great is that we’re all from different places. We could all share stories and exchange memories. We learnt so much from each other. We got to know each other a lot because we were all from different places. 

Wes is known for visual effects; how is he with actors?

He really puts story and character first. We weren’t sure initially; we knew it was his first big film and we knew he was from a visual effects background. But the second we met him we knew he’d be good. He loves stories. It’s what he’s about. He gets fully into it and immerses himself. It gives you so much energy and makes you want it so much as well. He kept us going the whole way through it.

'The Maze Runner' opens in Singapore 11 September

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The Maze Runner
  • The Maze Runner

  • Rated
    PG /
    Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • Language
  • (9 Reviews)