As the titular Ren, Sophie Skelton is the beating heart of the series. We asked her about the highlights and challenges of shooting season one.
Firstly, how did you get into acting?
Acting was always what I wanted to do and, when I was younger, I did a lot of stage work. I always loved the rush of being on stage in front of a live audience but it was the more natural approach of TV and film acting that made me want to concentrate on that side of it. Through my ballet school, I was contacted by my first agent. My first TV experience was actually dancing on the mystery guest section of Question of Sport with Ricky Hatton through the Palace Theatre in Manchester whilst in a production of Oliver. However my first official TV job was playing Snow White in Jamie Oliver’s final Sainsbury’s commercial. After that, I went on to do DCI Banks, Doctors, Foyle’s War and Waterloo Road. My first film role was in a WWII movie, where I played the lead female role of a French resistance fighter.
(You can still catch a clip from Sophie’s episode of Doctors.)
What attracted you to Ren?
I actually saw the Ren breakdown on a site called Casting Call Pro and sent a self-tape through the day before the deadline. Apart from the obvious ones such as Lord of the Rings and now The Hobbit and Game of Thrones, there aren’t that many scripts that come through in the fantasy genre. That combined with the originality of the story of Ren and the quality of Kate’s writing, really appealed to me and it was just something I really wanted to be a part of. Ren is a free spirit and not your typical damsel in distress. This strength of character makes her a desirable role to play and a role model for young girls! After a few audition stages, I met with Kate, Chris and Duran. Unbeknownst to Duran and I, this was actually a final stage chemistry test but we thought it was just another stage of the recalls so I was thrilled when my agent got a call soon after to say they were offering me the part!
Without giving too much away, tell us about Ren and her journey in season one.
Ren is smart but she is young and vulnerable, she knows a lot less than she thinks she does about the world she lives in and the secrets surrounding it and her family. She learns many new things in season one which change her world and her as a person, she must grow up quickly to defend everything she believes in, yet so much is still a mystery and she is yet to find herself and her answers. And that’s all I’ll give away for now!
What was it like to put on your costume and step onto the village set on your first day?
When I first saw the set that Chris and the rest of the crew had built, I was so impressed! Just as Kate had created a whole world in her writing, they had created a totally believable environment in the village. Especially Karn’s house. This was great for me as the actress playing Ren because in the script her hideout is Karn’s house, she sees it as her safe place. This was exactly the feel it gave off when I first walked into it. I would go there to relax and read through my lines between filming because it was such a calming environment. Amanda did an incredible job with all of the props in there, it was like Aladdin’s cave – you could be in there for hours and still notice something you hadn’t seen before. As for the costumes, Miriam did the most amazing job – they were all made with such attention to detail and every bit of Ren’s just matches her character completely.
What was the most challenging scene for you?
With this series only being made thanks to the generosity of Kickstarter donators, it was obviously relatively low budget. This meant that Kate had to struggle with actors being available on different days, so the hardest part of filming for me was when doing scenes without the other actors. For example, the first time you see Baynon and Ren together in the script, he wasn’t actually there! This makes it very difficult having no-one to feed off when acting but also was a great experience because it’s good to be out of your comfort zone.
And the most fun?
Location shoots are always fun, but Epping Forest and Wales for Ren have to be two of my favourites. The road trip to Wales saw me with great company in Chris and Miriam and with great road trip music from Chris’ CDs!
Can you sum up in a sentence or two what viewers can expect from Ren when it’s released next year ?
When the wait is over and Ren is released, the viewers can expect to be taken into a world of action, ancient myths and intriguing relationships and be left with many questions they can’t wait to be answered!