From small screen to the big stage
Emmett Skilton says he knew he had made it when an image of himself half-naked was splashed on the back of a bus.
The actor performs the main role of Henry in Red Leap’s latest production, Paper Sky, which opened at Downstage on November 2.
Skilton rose to nationwide fame last year when he scored the role of Axl Johnson in the television series The Almighty Johnsons.
The Porirua native said he could vividly remember the first time he saw his face on the back of a bus.
‘‘I was driving and I’d been told that the posters were up.
‘‘I had seen other ones, but I was about two cars behind a bus and wasn’t really concentrating.
‘‘The van in front of me pulled out and there I was staring at myself topless. The person in the car next to me noticed it and was open-mouthed looking from me to the bus. It was quite surprising.
‘‘Having your nipples on a bus takes a bit of getting used to.
‘‘I’m not sure I’d do it again any time soon.’’
He said now he was used to the fame, he was excited to be able to use his exposure to help causes around New Zealand.
‘‘I get to be a representative for certain companies. At the moment I’m working for the SPCA.
‘‘I’ve been volunteering for them for the past two years and I get to be the face of them when they do publicity stuff in Auckland.
‘‘It’s really good that I’ve been able to use my fame and exposure to share my interests and what I find important in the world.’’
Skilton grew up in Titahi Bay and studied drama at Toi Whakaari. Paper Sky is his first show in Wellington since he appeared in The Almighty Johnsons.
‘‘It’s awesome to be back. It’s been about seven months since I was last here,’’ he said.
‘‘There are a lot of old friends and food places to catch up with. I also want to find time to visit Toi Whakaari and my old high school.’’
He said he had always wanted to be an actor.
‘‘It’s always been performing, having people enjoy what you’re doing. I enjoy having an audience and the buzz I get from them.
‘‘ During my primary school years, the oldest children did a school production at the Porirua Little Theatre. I remember playing a kiwi. Because we were young, we just had to be in the kiwi suits and do a few little moves.
‘‘I remember sticking my tongue through the eye hole of the kiwi costume, and I stole about a quarter of the audience’s attention.
‘‘It was the first time I remember getting a buzz from performing, and I still get it.’’
Skilton said there were a few differences between acting for theatre and for television.
‘‘With theatre you get instant audience reaction,’’ he said.
‘‘The audience will be quiet or they’ll shuffle in their seats or they’ll laugh or they’ll cry.
‘‘But with screen there’s very little rehearsal time. So what you perform on screen is generally quite fresh.’’
Paper Sky tells the story of Henry, a writer who refuses to leave his apartment.
Henry’s only company chorus of alter-egos.
‘‘Henry is a recluse and is suffering,’’ Skilton said. ‘‘In the past he has lost his wife and now he’s secured himself in his home, try-
is a ing to forget and write his novels.
‘‘It’s about his journey to overcome loss and gain a life. It’s quite a relatable human story. It’s very magical and uses the imagination. There are also a lot of jokes.’’
Henry’s world is disrupted when his own creation, Lumina, bursts from the pages of his fantasy and into the apartment on a mission to save her papery world.
Back to his roots: Titahi Bay native Emmett Skilton returns home to Wellington to perform in Paper Sky at Downstage. Inset: As Henry in
surrounded by Henry’s alter-egos, played by Justin Haiu, Veronica Brady and Alison Bruce.