Laya Lewis, 18, was asked to audition for the hit E4 series Skins while studying for drama A-Level at Cotham High School, Bristol. The teenager was spotted by some of the shows production team who as well as organising open auditions visited some local schools on the look out for hot new talent.
In the first season of Skins, all but one of the cast were Bristolian. The second cast, had Bristolian actors playing roughly half the angst-ridden teen roles – but the forthcoming series has just one solitary Bristolian in front of the camera, which is Laya.
“I don't mind being the only Bristolian this time around. Luckily we don't need to affect strong Bristolian accents for Skins, even though it is set in the city, so I've not had all the others quizzing me for the right intonations or anything like that."
She said she wasn't seriously considering a career in acting, until she stumbled into Skins, which is filmed in Fishponds.
More than 2,000 people descended on Bristol for open auditions in May, to try to win a coveted part in the trendy TV series. But Laya was offered the opportunity to audition while studying for a drama A-level at Cotham High School.
"Although the production company organised open auditions, they also visited a few of the local schools. We were just all told to go along and join in the audition, even if we didn't seriously think we were in with a chance of getting a role.
"I certainly didn't think I would be called back. There were lots people who had bigger, louder characters than mine," she says. "But I got involved with the role-playing exercises, and had a bit of fun doing it.
"They filmed everyone working on the exercises, and then went away and examined what we looked like on screen. Amazingly they must have seen something in me, because I got called back – and went through seven stages of auditioning, before I was finally offered the part."
"I'm loving it," she said. "It is another world. I was very aware that we all had big shoes to fill when we first came on to the set back in July. On that first day, I was pretty terrified, but we all were – we're all teenagers, who have never done anything like this before. It's entirely new to us.
"There is a bit of pressure at first to make friends with the rest of the cast – I was very aware that it was important to develop a bond with them that would translate to a chemistry on screen. But within a few days we were all getting on famously anyway. Friendships just developed in the end, without having to make an effort to work on them.
She continued: "It's pretty cool, because to be honest, none of my friends watch Skins, so they're not getting too obsessed about it. My family are just proud that I'm going to be on the telly.
"I was just going to take a year out before thinking about going to university, so I think they think this beats ******* around for 12 months having fun with my mates.
"I must admit though, I'm a bit nervous about the first programme being broadcast in January. It's actually quite scary to think that people are going to start recognising me in the street."
Skins returns to E4 for the new series in January.