Glass talks to Brazilian-British actor Kaya Scodelario


Glass talks to Brazilian-British actor Kaya Scodelario about imposter syndrome, motherhood and how she got the lead role in her primary school play

KAYA Scodelario rose to fame as the beautiful, rebellious teen in cult British TV series Skins. She has since starred in some of the world’s largest film franchises, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Maze Runner and, most recently, Resident Evil, as well as appearing in music videos for pop stars such as Robbie Williams and Plan B, BBC dramas and an acclaimed turn as Cathy in the 2011 film adaptation of Wuthering Heights.

Kaya. Photograph: Elliott Morgan

Scodelario has also starred in campaigns for Cartier and is a frequent guest at the world’s most respected catwalks, and yet she shies away from the limelight. When not filming she lives in London with her husband, son and beloved French bulldog, Arnie. [Since this interview took place, Scodelario had a second child.]

There is such a cult following around the Resident Evil  franchise, did you feel a weight of pressure to please the fans when bringing this game to life?

There are generations of people who have grown up with these games, there’s all these different versions and people have their favourite ones. There’s a whole Resident Evil Wikipedia database on the internet, with all the characters’ backstories. With me not coming from a gaming background, I found that quite shocking – I didn’t realise how intense it would be. When I started playing the game for research, I realised it’s popular because they’re just done so well; it’s such a narrative, it’s such a story.

It’s a form of filmmaking still; I was amazed at the quality of it and how immersive the games really feel. I completely understand now why there is such a huge fan base and with that there’s definitely a responsibility. Luckily, so far I feel like the Resident Evil fans have been super supportive and excited about the film. I think they really like that we’re trying to keep it as honourable to the games as possible, that we’re trying to really make a movie for the fans.

Kaya. Photograph: Elliott Morgan

Since you’ve become a mum, what part of motherhood has had the biggest impact on you?
Lots of things impact me every single day. I think that was the big realisation – that every day you wake up and it’s the same kind of survival to get through to the end of the day with them and you alive.

It’s just that battle, which is amazing and beautiful. I think it’s made me a much better actor; I understand the nuances of being a human so much more. My emotions feel deeper, my empathy feels deeper.

My strength feels a lot stronger, like when I’m playing these kind of action roles. My stamina has completely changed. I started working when I was a teenager, so I used to sleep 12 hours a day. Now I can have four hours’ sleep and work 18-hour days, no problem. Having a new-born will teach you that you do not need sleep.

It makes me super-pissed that women are paid less than men because I think we’re absolutely f-ing amazing compared to them.

Kaya. Photograph: Elliott Morgan

You describe yourself as having an immigrant single mother, from Brazil. Did you see yourself as different when you were growing up because of this?
This was nearly 30 years ago. My mum was one of the only foreign parents in my school – I went to a Catholic primary school. She was one of the only parents that had an accent and I was one of the only kids that didn’t come from a dual-parent family home.

I never felt different though because my mum did such an amazing job of being both parents and I had a really amazing childhood filled with love and culture and laughter. I never felt different. It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I realised how hard it must have been for her and how much she went through.

When I started out in the industry, I could tell the agents and casting directors wanted to pitch me as this English rose, so much so that I’ve done interviews where they’ve called me an English rose. I’m not, I’m a bi-racial woman, I’m half Latina and I’ve never been allowed to embrace that in the industry.

No one’s ever wanted that from me. It’s been strange and so now it’s something that I’m really advocating for myself. I don’t want to be called a British actress in interviews anymore.

I’m Brazilian-British. And I’m really proud of that and that only adds to me. For a long time, they wanted to put me in this kind of blue-eyed British box and that’s not my culture. My culture is Brazilian much more so than it is British; that’s the food, the music, the sense of humour I grew up with.

That’s an undeniable part of me. Just because I sound British doesn’t negate the really influential Latin side of me. It’s something that I’m really working on now. I want to work with more Latin-based filmmakers and writers and actors and directors. I’ve never had the opportunity to do that before, but now I’m taking that into my own hands and I’m going to make it happen myself.

Kaya. Photograph: Elliott Morgan

The theme of this issue is “dedication”. You’ve been dedicated to your craft since you were a child. What was it about acting that you knew it was what you wanted to do?
I had no choice in it. I was a very, very shy child. I was very anxious, even though that word didn’t really exist when I was younger; but I definitely had severe anxiety for a lot of my childhood and my teenage years.

Acting was the only thing that made me feel calm, that made me feel good, that made me emotional and made me love. I don’t know why, it really just felt like a part of me; it was storytelling, it was make believe. It was never about being famous or anything like that – I am still terrified of that side of it all. It’s always been more of a very pure form of expression for me.

I also feel very lucky to work. People who come from my background don’t usually get this lucky. I’ve always just been dedicated to making sure that I didn’t lose it. I always have imposter syndrome where I’m terrified one day someone’s going to pop up and go, “you’re not posh enough to be here”.  I just want to keep working as hard as I can to keep it going.

Kaya. Photograph: Elliott Morgan

What was the catalyst? Was it that you saw films when you were a child and you just thought “that world looks amazing”?
I went to a Catholic primary school and there was a day where we were doing hot-seating, which is where you pretend to be someone else. They needed someone to talk for religion and someone else speak against it. It being a Catholic school, no one wanted to be the-against-religion kid. I was like, “I’ll do it, I’ll give it a go”. I just really enjoyed the rush of it, of pretending, of speaking out, of having an opinion – finding a way to not be shy.

Then a few months later, we did our end of primary school play, which was Oliver Twist, and they auditioned all the boys, but they wouldn’t let the girls audition, they just gave the girls parts. They gave me one line to say. And I said my one line as passionately as I could and I ended up being cast as Oliver.

I always kind of had this sense that if people didn’t believe in me, I’d make them believe in me. It was the only time I’ve ever felt brave.


Kaya. Photograph: Elliott Morgan

By Nicola Kavanagh


Photographer ELLIOTT MORGAN ​​


Make up GINA KANE at CAREN using CHANEL Fall-Winter 2021 Collection Tone-On-Tone and CHANEL Sublimage Le Baume and La Crème Corps et Décolleté


Styling assistant DOMINIK RADOMSKI

All clothing and accessories TOD’S AW21 Women’s Collection