When last we saw Skins’ Sid Jenkins he’d landed in New York City in pursuit of his beloved Cassie, who later revealed the pair had gone their separate ways.
It was a heart-breaking revelation for fans, who’d been eager to see him back on TV screens when the hit E4 show came to a conclusion in a series of nostalgic episodes in 2013.
What happened to Sid Jenkins? What on earth did he do next?
“I’ve gone the backwards way of life”, actor Mike Bailey chirps down the phone to Radio Times on a sunny Friday afternoon, almost ten years to the day since the show first aired.
The bespectacled Bristol boy in the beanie hat is now a 28-year-old married man (don’t worry, I’m heartbroken too), who’s currently finishing up a degree in theatre and drama at university.
It’s kind of funny, given his on-screen alter ego’s final storyline saw him deciding to give third level education a miss.
“I kind of thought ‘what the f**k am I doing with my life?’ and ended up getting in a conversation with the wife a couple of years ago and decided that those who can’t act teach”, Bailey laughs in the same West Country tones as his teenage alter ago.
It’s as though I’ve picked up the phone and dialled into the late noughties for a blast from the TV past.
“10 years ago I never thought I’d still be talking about it, but [Sid] still does pop up every now and again. I mean, it’s always kind of been there. It’s kind of fizzled out over the years, but I mean, it was always a good thing”, he says.
Bailey, Joe Dempsie, Hannah Murray, Larissa Wilson, Dev Patel, Mitch Hewer, Nicholas Hoult and April Pearson were the leading stars of the first generation Skins cast from 2007 to 2008
And why wouldn’t it be?
Skins – the teen comedy drama created by Bryan Elsley and his son Jamie Brittain – was a massive success with both critics and its target audience alike when it launched in 2007 with Bailey, Nicholas Hoult, Kaya Scodelario, and Academy Award nominee Dev Patel among the cast of its first generation.
The show ran for six series and produced some of Britain’s most popular TV actors, writers and directors (take Game of Thrones stars Hannah Murray and Joe Dempsie, Harry Potter play writer Jack Thorne and People Just Do Nothing director Jack Clough, for example) as it endeavoured to depict teenage Britain in a way no TV series had done before.
“It was great to have that exposure from a young age and be able to do things which many others couldn’t,” muses Bailey.
“To be kind of thrown into it was a good thing”, he adds, though he didn’t expect Skins to bring him fame, let alone have an impact on his personal life.
Legend tells of fans making pilgrimages to the Bristol branch of Topman where Bailey worked, eager to nab the unlucky in love Sid’s number. That hysteria has died down in recent years, but he notes that it lingers in the background and “pops up every now and again”.
“If you do things that have, not necessarily a big impact, but if you do something which is very different to what was going on at that time, it kind of sticks with you,” he says.
It’s safe to say Skins was very different indeed, and that’s probably why it made such a splash when it arrived in the late 2000s. Born just before Facebook, YouTube and Twitter became go-to entertainment sources for teens who felt let down by traditional broadcasters, the show aired at a time when there was little in the way of TV that reflected the lives of the UK’s young adults.
Its stars found themselves quickly thrust into the limelight as a result. They became cult heroes, inspired hedonistic Skins parties, and were stopped in the street by people of all ages, who were interested in the conversations some of the show’s plots – which ranged from eating disorders to relationship issues, sexuality, race, religion and identity – started.
“I can remember having people maybe of an older generation kind of stop me on the street or speak to me and say that they found it very interesting that there was a show that was dealing with certain topics such as eating disorders and things like that, so openly, which hadn’t happened before”, Bailey recalls. “A few mothers spoke to me and said ‘it’s interesting to me to see what goes on with teenage life nowadays because obviously it’s changed since my day’.”
Teenage life changed dramatically during the show’s six years on air too, though, with the rise of social media and online streaming. Bailey admits he’s curious about how Skins would have fared if it had first aired in the era of on-demand TV.
“If you were watching TV, it’s not that you were stuck, but you were limited in what you could actually view that night so it wouldn’t be the same as if it was on now. I’d be interested to kind of see what the response and what the critical kind of response would be if it was shown now in comparison to back then.”
He believes Skins survived the MySpace generation’s transition to YouTube and Facebook by embracing those new social media platforms.
“When the third and fourth series was launched they had a lot of background videos, little self-made videos. I helped direct some of them and they were then put on Channel 4”, he explains.
“Looking back, they were very much at the forefront, to keep that conversation going so you could find out more about the show. It was very early stage in comparison to what’s going on now, where someone’s just been elected US President off the basis of being really good at being on Twitter.”
Social media aside, the relatable nature of the show’s main characters was also key to the success of the series. Bailey’s virgin Sid Jenkins was one person many British teens found it particularly easy to identify with.
Based on Brian Elsley’s son and Skins co-creator Jamie Brittain, the “useless” best pal of Nicholas Hoult’s Tony Stonem endeared audiences with his tactless approach to love, academic struggles and the stormy relationship he had with his father.
“I was kind of just doing my own thing,” Bailey reflects when asked how he brought Sid to life. Like many of his co-stars at the time he was a relative newcomer to the acting scene and didn’t really spend time overthinking how the character should be played.
Was there much of Mike Bailey in Sid Jenkins then? “I’ve always said ‘no’,” he replies in a mirthful tone, “but I’ve been told by many people from back in the day that it’s a ‘yes’. There was never any intention but I’ve got family members who can very much vouch for the fact that it was like me at the time.”
Sid’s fate remained unclear at the end of Skins Rise, the Cassie-centric episode penned by Jamie Brittain for the 2013 three-part finale, but Bailey says he told creator Elsley that the character should be “dead in a gutter in New York somewhere”.
We last saw Sid in New York in Skins Vol 2 Episode 10: Goodbyes
More realistically, he envisions Sid having returned to Bristol post break-up with Cassie and “probably just making his way through life”.
“I’d like to think he did something meaningful with his life, but chances are he’s not amounted to very much,” he chuckles.
Would Bailey ever be tempted to revive Sid in any potential future series or spin-offs? The answer is simple: “No”.
“I was brought up in a very British television way so my icons of TV are the people who were happy if that character had been done, they didn’t want to do it the American justice and do it to death,” he explains.
Not even murmurings of films, extra series and potential 10-year anniversary specials could convince him: “I always said the only way I’d ever go back and do it was if everyone was involved, which would be impossible because one of them died, so I wouldn’t do that one again.
“I had a good time doing it. I don’t think I owe myself, or anyone that watched it, any justice going back because I like the way it was left.”
There’s very clearly no bad blood between Bailey and the show that made him a British teen star, though. In fact, he’s still in touch with the friends – or “family”, as he calls them – he made on set.
“We’ve got the WhatsApp group,” he reveals. “When we were doing the second series that’s when Facebook first came out, I can remember Joe [Dempsie] was like the first one that had it and everyone was very tentatively on it, but I mean most of us still keep in touch.”
He recalls nights out in Bristol with Dempsie, Patel and Hoult and talks fondly of New Year’s trips the gang have taken together in recent years: “We made friends, definitely for life”, he says.
“I mean, don’t get me wrong, some have strayed from the pack, but you can’t win ‘em all and everyone just kind of goes in their own directions. Everyone’s doing well and to my knowledge, everyone’s happy, so that’s the main thing.”
While his former co-stars are off becoming X-Men and winning Oscar nominations, Bailey admits he’s put acting “on the backburner”. A stint in marketing and a few years of university later, he seems quite content with his lot in life.
“As great as actors can be and as great as that whole industry can be, you have to be very thick skinned and you have to be very determined and I’m such a relaxed person. I like just getting up and something that I enjoy and going six months not really knowing what’s going to happen next, I think, is a tricky way to live”, he explains, though he admits some of his university classmates think his decision is “a bit ridiculous”.
Could he be tempted back into the fold by his on-screen dad-turned-12th Doctor Peter Capaldi?
“Looking back, working with him and Josie Lawrence as my parents was great. I wish I could work with them again and there are so many things I want to talk to them about. It’s always the way,” he says.
Perhaps a call to ‘dad’ requesting a trip through space and time in a Doctor Who guest role is in order then?
“Hey, I tried that many years ago back in the old David Tennant days, but no luck,” Bailey laughs. “I keep meaning to pull that card again and go see Josie Lawrence in the Comedy Store players”.
As the years continue to roll by Bailey’s unlikely to ever look back on his Skins days with anything but affection.
“It was, for me, I don’t want to say life-changing because that feels like a cliché. It was eventful, past and present,” he begins.
“Things cropped up when we were doing it that I didn’t expect and things have come up since – and continue to come up – which I definitely didn’t expect. I think the main thing is we went into it not knowing what to expect and we came out of it like this mini family, which I think is the best thing at the end of the day.”
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