Playing god a hectic but rewarding job
Emmett Skilton says working in television is like being on a fastmoving machine, ‘‘ when you step off it’s like ‘what just happened?’’’
For the Titahi Bay-raised star of The Almighty Johnsons, ‘‘what just happened’’ was a calculated risk that has become a hit Kiwi television show, now in its second season on TV3.
When Kapi- Mana News first spoke with Skilton early last year, the verdict was still out on whether a show about brothers multi-tasking every day issues with their responsibilities as reincarnated Nordic gods, would find an audience. But ratings, reviews and fan mail has left little doubt the offbeat mix of sibling banter and fantasy has struck a chord.
The former Mana College student plays Axl, the youngest of five brothers with godly genealogy. As the reincarnated Odin, he is charged with finding the reincarnation of Odin’s wife Frigg, if the family is to restore their powers and protect themselves from less friendly god-folk.
Skilton, 24, says the success of the show can be attributed to the way it grounds the Johnson brothers in reality, dealing with ‘‘everyday stuff’’ – and then pushing the boundaries.
‘‘You can find whole episodes that deal with Axl [ Skilton’s character] just trying to be a man, to be an adult, it’s relatable to everyone. It’s not always based around the gods’ world. There’s that focus on the character coming into his own, it’s a nice mix.’’
Asked if it was weird to be playing Odin while the mythical figure was also being portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins in Thor, Skilton says the big budget Marvel movie did offer uncanny timing and reassurance.
‘‘It’s funny. When we first made the show it was hard to know how people would respond. With the Thor film coming out, it seemed like there was a god-show uprising. It showed us the world was ready for it . . . I suppose Anthony Hopkins did an okay job.’’
The show’s fantasy aspect has been a big hit with viewers and Skilton says the show’s writers have taken this on board for season two, promising more ‘‘ god stuff’’ and more immediate danger for Axl. ‘‘There’s a lot more at risk . . . The writers have amazing plans on where it can go.’’
Filming on The Almighty John- sons second season wrapped last month. Once voice over-dubs are completed, Skilton will set his sights on gigs across the ditch, splitting his time between Australia and New Zealand. Though some down- time is also much needed, he says.
Despite a busy schedule – Skilton also recently acted in a short film and appeared in a soonto-be aired episode of panel show Would I Lie to You?, he has managed to get back to Titahi Bay three times in the recent months, enjoying the beach and visiting family in Tawa.
‘‘My life’s changed quite a bit. Lots of people come up to me now, but it’s great, it means lots of people are watching the show.’’
And not just in New Zealand. The Almighty Johnsons is available online in many countries and has screened on television in the UK.
‘‘I’ll get messages from people in Scotland on how much they loved a certain scene.’’
Skilton is particularly chuffed with the broad audience the series is attracting, characters connecting a variety of age groups.
‘‘I think all of the boys bring something different to the show. Olaf [the grandfather, played by Ben Barrington] seems to be a hit with women over 40. A lot of teenagers come up to me, from punk rockers to beach- loving girls.’’
Skilton says he is planning to return to Porirua and Mana College soon to talk to students.
The Almighty Johnsons screens each Wednesday, 8.30pm, TV 3.
Gods on his side: Emmett Skilton has experienced a heady 12 months, largely due to the workload and success of The Almighty Johnsons.