Twelve Questions
Jennifer Dann poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions with Emmett Skilton

By Jennifer Dann

Actor Emmett Skilton shot to fame playing the skinny Viking god Axl in The Almighty Johnsons. Now the 29-year-old is directing the hit comedy web series Auckward Love.
Emmett Skilton says this is the busiest year he's has as an actor.
Emmett Skilton says this is the busiest year he's has as an actor.

1 How did you meet your partner Holly Shervey, the creator and lead actor in Auckward Love?

Holly's flatmate Will Hall took her to breakfast for her birthday a few years ago and didn't tell her he was inviting six of his mates, including Jordan Mauger, Ben Barrington and Darren Young. I was the only one she hadn't met. We hit it off, as much as we could with all the guys bantering across the table, and after breakfast went to The Hobbit. We kept in touch over the next two years while I was back and forth from Los Angeles and our relationship built from there.

2 You're now making a third season of Auckward Love. How did your comedy series come about?

Holly came up with the idea. All the characters and stories are based on her life. They're hilarious and she has a hundred more. I'm like, "How did I not know that guy proposed to you like that? How many guys have proposed to you?" Some of the stories are pushed to the extreme but most aren't. The writing's by Jess Sayer, who has an incredible ability to write dialogue for women of any age.

We wanted to reflect society back on itself in terms of the way women are seen and treated. So many things aren't talked about, from work relationships to sexual relationships. The great thing about web series is you can push the boundaries more than in mainstream TV.

3 The show focuses on the friendships of four women - there's the hippy one, the lesbian one, the funny one ... how much of an influence was Lena Dunham's Girls?

Girls was definitely an inspiration but I made a point of not watching it beforehand. Both make a statement about women in society. Girls is drama with comedic moments whereas ours is the opposite.

4 How popular has Auckward Love been?

We made Season 1 for $4000 and put it on YouTube. Then TVNZ On Demand approached us. Since the show went on their website in February it's been their highest-rating New Zealand short with 26,000 views in the first week. Season 2 is just out and we're making Season 3. Internationally, we've got fans in places like France and Canada.

5 What's the best bit of feedback you've had?

"That's exactly how I thought New Zealand women would be!" from a woman in her late 30s who was planning a six-month trip here and was worried she wouldn't fit in. She loved the down-to-earth nature of Kiwi women. A 65-year-old woman told us she found it "nostalgic". Moments like the debriefing after a night out with the girls she remembered from when she was young. We used some of the feedback from viewers to inform Season 2. They wanted longer episodes and more character development.

6 The cast and crew of Auckward Love are 90 per cent female - do you ever feel out of place?

I was raised by two women, my mum and grandma, so I don't ever feel like I'm out of my depth. There are times where I have to step back, like an episode which looks at how women on the street are treated by men. I can't really make statements about that because I haven't experienced it.

7 Why have you got "Rona" tattooed on your arm?

That's my grandma. She was a huge influence on me. My parents split up when I was 3 and grandma helped raised me and my three brothers in Titahi Bay. She got cancer when I was 13. Mum and I looked after her for the last five years of her life which was a special thing to be able to give back.

8 When did you realise you wanted to be an actor?

At Mana College in Porirua. It was decile 1 and could be quite volatile back then. As a skinny white guy, I realised that keeping people entertained meant I wasn't targeted as much. I've always loved making people laugh. I broke the VHS player writing down every single Ace Ventura quote. After school I joined the Ugly Shakespeare Company and then went to Toi Whakaari.

9 How did you feel about being named New Zealand's Sexiest Vegetarian by SAFE last month?

Sam Hayes got it last year and I love Sam so I thought if she did it, I'm cool. Anything I can do to give a voice to those that don't have one. Holly and I are vegan at home. She used to eat meat before she met me but just through our conversations she went to a supermarket one day and could not buy chicken. I don't do eggs but I will eat dairy if I'm out and someone serves it to me, like on film sets.

10 Why were you living in Los Angeles on and off overthe last two years?

The Almighty Johnsons got sold to the SYFY channel in the US, the first New Zealand show to do so, which meant there was opportunity from people knowing my face. I did the whole pilot season thing and went to events like Comic-Con in San Diego. That was mental. The whole city transforms for three days. I was a guy from New Zealand suddenly surrounded by my heroes. I got into an elevator with Kevin Smith. I had lunch with guys from Sons of Anarchy including Ron Pearlman. I met Christopher Ryan from one of my favourite comedies, The Young Ones. He's tiny, a wax-like figure with beautiful, tanned, silky skin and white hair. He keeps an ancient cellphone in a ziplock bag in his jacket pocket. He said he'd love to keep in touch. I was like, "Cool, what's your email address?" He said, "I don't do email but you can reach me by post". I was like, "WTF? Can't quite see that working out."

11 What TV shows are you enjoying at the moment?

This Is Us with Mandy Moore is top of my list right now. The writing is stunning. I've never had a drama surprise me like that before. It's not easy, straightforward TV, it's not cheap, made-in-a-hurry TV - it's had a lot of thought and heart put into it. Happy Valley is another. It's very dark, rough and raw. Everything from the cinematography to the music to the acting is so on edge.

12 How did you land a prime role in AMC's new TV series about the Chicago mob?

That was made here in New Zealand with a mainly Kiwi cast by an American company, Stephen David Entertainment. They were brought here by Screentime and are about to start their fourth job here, which is great. There are murmurings going round that if any more productions come here they're going to run out of crew. As an actor it's the busiest year I've had. I'm working on a TV show called Dear Murderer about thelife of lawyer Mike Bungay. Holly and I just spent the weekend making a short film called Red Ribbon, which she wrote and acted in. This woman has so many stories to tell it's incredible.

- NZ Herald

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