To her friends, Bethan’s life is perfect. She lives in a good house, her parents support her, care for her and love her, and she has no more worries than to study or run for course delegate. But when Beth turns the corner from school, her reality is quite different: her father is an alcoholic and violent, her mother suffers from bipolar disorder and has to be admitted every so often to a hospital from which she regularly escapes, and the electricity is usually cut off at home for not paying the bills. That’s Beth’s fictional life, but it was also Beth’s real adolescence. Kayleigh Llewellyncreator of In My Skina harsh BBC drama with half-hour episodes whose two seasons are now available on Filmin in dubbed and original versions with subtitles.
A native of the Welsh capital, Cardiff, Llewellyn (36) first oriented her career towards acting, but soon realized that she preferred writing. He didn’t have it easy. As a scriptwriter for the veteran BBC medical drama casualty she had to combine her job with box office work in a theater to make ends meet. After a year in which several deaths accumulated in her family, she ended up with enormous debts that forced her to resort to charity, specifically, to the organization Film and TV Charity, focused on supporting workers in the world of television and film. They helped her pay the rent on her house for several months. On May 8, two days after she gave an interview to EL PAÍS, her first series as creator received the Bafta television award, the most prestigious in the United Kingdom, for the best drama of the year for its second season. Llewellyn’s life had been turned upside down. And the origin of everything was in her own life.
because what counts In My Skin it is, in essence, the adolescence of its screenwriter. Like Beth, she too grew up in a broken home. Her mother suffered from severe bipolar disorder, with frequent admissions to a psychiatric institution. Her family had great difficulty making ends meet. And she lived in constant fear that her schoolmates would discover her true situation, which she completely hid outside the walls of her home out of shame.
Before telling this story, he consulted with his family: “I asked my sister, because my mother at that time was not well enough to read the scripts, she was in a psychiatric hospital. But I have a younger sister with whom I get along very well and I asked her permission. I gave her the scripts, she read them and told her that if she didn’t want me to do it or if she thought something was too personal, she would take it down or drop it. But she supported me with everything and she told me that she loved her and that she thought it was important to tell her. Then I told my mother when she was well enough”, she recalls. Now she smiles slightly as she reminisces about her mother’s visit to the set of the series. “They are very proud of me.”
To maintain a certain distance between reality and fiction, Llewellyn introduced slight differences in the series: while her mother is a Welsh woman with blonde hair, in fiction the actress Jo Hartley has dark hair and is from Manchester (England); in fiction, the protagonist is an only child and the screenwriter has three brothers; and while in the series, Beth leans on her paternal grandmother, in reality it was her maternal grandmother who was closest to her. “Small differences that helped me separate the series from my life, that it was not a documentary.” But everything else is based on her adolescence, from her first loves with other classmates at school to that feeling of helplessness that the protagonist of the series transmits so well.
In In My Skin The performances of both Gabrielle Creevy, who plays the young protagonist who carries her mother’s care on her shoulders (her father has been given up for lost), and Jo Hartley, who starkly gives life to her mother, stand out. , Trine. Critics have praised the realistic and crude reflection of both mental illness and poverty that is much more present in people’s daily lives than is reflected in television series. “The landscape has changed a lot in the UK. I don’t know how it is in Spain, but in Great Britain, since there is a Conservative government, the poor people are the ones who have suffered the most. If I were a teenager today, I am 100% sure that I would depend on food banks to be able to eat. That is why it was very important to me that we talk about poverty in the series, and not as if it were a rare thing, it is something very common. Bethan is a normal student who sometimes comes home from school to find that she doesn’t have electricity or heating, and she doesn’t make a big deal of it, it’s normal, because it’s normal in the UK. A lot of kids live like that.”
For the creator of the series, it was essential that the filming take place in Cardiff, close to the places where she grew up. “A lot of series are now shot in Cardiff, like The discovery of the witches, Doctor Who, sex education, The End of the F***ing World… But no one uses Cardiff like Cardiff, it always represents another place. I wanted the series to show the Cardiff I know and to have the opportunity to hire people from here.”
Another essential aspect for her was to show the reality of mental illness, something that she does not believe that television has adequately portrayed. “We hardly ever see stories that deal with mental health. There is a huge stigma surrounding that topic. It is probably one of the reasons why In My Skin It has been so well received, because many people suffer from mental illness and have never seen their stories told on television”, he claims.
In My Skin manages to make so much crudeness bearable thanks to the delicacy with which these issues are treated on screen and the traces of black humor that dot the story. “It’s important when dealing with tough topics on TV not to do it too ruthlessly. The audience needs a break, they need to laugh to help process the most difficult moments in the story. The same in real life. This is how I have survived, because of the comedy, the laughter, that is how I have faced everything.”
Now, this screenwriter has gone from being dependent on charity to being part of the writers room of a global hit production, killin Eve, and pick up the Baftas for best drama screenplay and best dramatic series. “In My Skin It has totally changed my life. In my career, it has moved me to a very different place where I don’t have to worry about paying the bills anymore. Personally, it has been very satisfying and healing to tell my story.” Finally, would you recommend other people to be screenwriters? “I would recommend it if you really love it. But if not, better find something else.”
You can follow EL PAÍS TELEVISION on Twitter or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Exclusive content for subscribers
read without limits