How Channel 4's Skins catapulted its cast to success

Sid Jenkins (Mike Bailey) Chris Miles (Joe Dempsie), Jal Frazer (Larissa Wilson), Anwar Kharral (Dev Patel), Maxxie Oliver (Mitch Hewer), Tony Stonem (Nicholas Hoult), Michelle Richardson (April Pearson)
Skins aired on Channel 4 from 2007 to 2013, following three generations of students and the messy lives they led and a number of the cast went on to become huge stars. (Channel 4)

During its run, Skins was a cultural phenomenon, it was one of those shows that had viewers talking and it proved to be an unlikely jumping off point for many of its cast to advance their careers and reach megastar status.

The Channel 4 drama began airing in 2007, and it follows a group of teens embarking on their final years of secondary school but who would rather spend their time drinking, doing drugs and having sex than doing any homework. It was messy and full of drama, and every two seasons the show would change focus to a new generation of characters until it ended with its seventh series in 2013.

Read more: Dev Patel 'so proud' of 'Skins' co-stars and their Hollywood success

Several actors who appeared in the show have gone to become huge stars in their own right, with some getting nominated for an Oscar, others becoming staples of the superhero genre, and generally being seen as some of the best British stars of the industry. Let's take a look at the biggest stars from the show and what they've gone on to achieve.

Dev Patel, Nicholas Hoult, Mike Bailey and Mitch Hewer pictured in 2007 for Skins. (Shutterstock)
Dev Patel, Nicholas Hoult, Mike Bailey and Mitch Hewer pictured in 2007 for Skins, Hoult and Patel are both megastars in their own right since appearing in the series. (Shutterstock)

The series had an extensive cast over its 6-year run on Channel 4, with actors like Olivia Colman and Peter Capaldi making up some of the supporting characters. But for this we are going to focus on the younger actors who took to the screen, some making their acting debut, in the series.

The first four series had the most impact with the first and second being led by Nicholas Hoult as Tony Stonem, the de facto leader of the group. Granted Hoult had already been doing well for himself as a child actor at the time, having acted opposite Hugh Grant in About A Boy, but Skins was his first opportunity to prove himself in a dark, gritty dramatic role.

Of all the Skins cast, Hoult is arguably the most successful having gone on to appear in countless big blockbusters like the X-Men prequels, Mad Max: Fury Road and has led TV shows like Hulu's The Great. His star is only continuing to rise, because Hoult will soon be appearing in Superman: Legacy as the DCU's new iteration of Lex Luthor opposite new Superman David Corenswet. By all accounts, a great filmography in the wake of the Channel 4 series.

Dev Patel made his acting debut in Skins as Anwar Kharral, one of the main group of friends featured in the first two series. The actor followed up his time on the Channel 4 show by leading an Oscar-winning movie, Danny Boyle's 2008 hit Slumdog Millionaire, and things have only got better from there.

Jal Frazer (Larissa Wilson), Cassie Ainsworth (Hannah Murray), Chris Miles (Joe Dempsie) in Skins (Channel 4)
Other actors who went on to do big things include Hannah Murray and Joe Dempsie, who played Cassie and Chris in Skins. (Channel 4)

The actor has achieved great things, he has starred in hits like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and also been nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 2016's Lion. Patel has also turned to directing, and has just launched his first feature film in cinemas — an epic action caper called Monkey Man.

Other alumni for the first two series include Joe Dempsie, Hannah Murray, and Daniel Kaluuya. Dempsie and Murray played Chris Miles and Cassie Ainsworth in the series and both went on to appear in Game of Thrones following their time on the show — Dempsie played Gendry and Murray played Gilly.

Kaluuya, meanwhile, portrayed Posh Kenneth in the series, and he has since made a huge name for himself thanks to his star-turning role in Jordan Peele's Get Out, which he has followed up with films like Nope, Black Panther and Judas and the Black Messiah — for which Kaluuya won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Kaya Scodelario portrayed Tony's sister Effy in the show's first four seasons, with the character being so important to the overall narrative that after playing a supporting role in series 1 and 2 she became the lead for series 3 and 4. The actor was catapulted to fame thanks to the show, and she followed it up with the likes of The Maze Runner franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge, and, most recently, Guy Ritchie's Netflix series The Gentlemen.

Skins (Channel 4)
Series 3 and 4 of Skins changed focus onto Kaya Scodelario's Effy, sister to Nicholas Hoult's Tony, and she and her co-stars Jack O'Connell and Luke Pasqualino had huge success after their time on the show. (Channel 4)

Series 3 and 4 was a great jumping off point for several other actors too, with the show introducing characters played by Jack O'Connell and Luke Pasqualino for example. O'Connell played Cook, the destructive, brutish anti-hero of the two seasons who has an off-and-on romantic relationship with Effy and a number of other characters during the series.

Pasqualino portrayed Freddie Mclair, Cook's best friend who also goes on to date Effy over the course of the show — the love triangle between Effy, Freddie and Cook represents a major part of the narrative for series 3 and 4. Pasqualino followed up the series with several big projects like BBC drama Our Girl, Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer, and most recently Netflix fantasy series Shadow and Bone.

Murray, Scodelario, and O'Connell returned to the Skins franchise after their initial stint on the show for the seventh series. The six-part special focused two episodes apiece on their respective characters —titled Fire, Pure and Rise— which revealed what happened to Cassie, Effy and Cook in the aftermath of their school days.

As well as the main cast, a number of actors made brief appearances in the show including James Buckley, of Inbetweeners fame, who appeared in one episode of Skins before going on to star in the hit comedy series that would make his name.

Other cameos include Lucien Laviscount, who starred in Skins: Rise (the story centred on Cook) and who has gone on to become a household name after starring in Netflix's Emily in Paris. Years & Years singer Olly Alexander also starred in Skins: Fire (Effy's story), as did British actor Craig Roberts — who is known for his roles in Submarine.

With all that said, it's safe to say that Skins was the perfect place for young talent to prove their acting skills, and it was a show that received such acclaim that it helped catapult many of them to global acclaim. Not bad for a Channel 4 series.

Skins is available to watch in full on Channel 4.