The Almighty Johnsons has just been given a third season after months of uncertainty. Emmett Skilton, the star of the locally made TV3 show, is relieved. He knows what he will be doing until a few months into next year: playing Axl, the reincarnation of a Nordic god.
After that, the 25-year-old actor will almost certainly be off to London to try for acting big-time. The Almighty Johnsons has been on television in Britain and has an online following there.
''In some ways, you have to place yourself in an area and go for it,'' he says.
There's no reason why it shouldn't all fall into place for him. It has so far. Skilton, at present playing the central character in Red Leap Theatre's Paper Sky at Downstage, has been blessed with roles he wanted ever since he graduated from Toi Whakaari in 2009, and long before that.
As a nipper at school in Titahi Bay, he found he was ''a bit of an entertainer''. He could make people laugh, ''and it grew from there''.
He had hardly been at school a year before he was cast in a stage production that had some relevance to the Pied Piper, only with kiwi.
He played a papier-mache kiwi, and managed to attract the spotlight by poking his tongue through the eyehole with inspired timing. The audience cracked up. It was a good feeling.
Skilton went on to Titahi Bay Intermediate and Mana College, where his dramatic activities were more serious. At Mana College, he became part of Joe Improv, a youth improvisation group which performed several shows at Wellington's Capital E. He was spotted at 17 by Danny Mulheron, director and scriptwriter for the television series Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby, and scored a part in it.
Skilton looks back at secondary school and thinks he did little but act. He left at the end of 2005, and the following year toured with the Ugly Shakespeare Company.
On tour, he met a teacher ''who said I should go to Toi Whakaari. I went there, and here I am''.
Not quite. He's packed a lot into the intervening years. Immediately after he graduated from Toi Whakaari, someone suggested The Almighty Johnsons. He had missed the auditions, though, so he phoned the director in Auckland and was told that callbacks would start on Monday, so if he did not get to Auckland during the weekend, too late.
''It was very, very close.''
Since then, he has been in stage productions and a few films, including Blondini Films' We Feel Fine. In Paper Sky, he plays Henry, with a chorus of alter-egos. To overcome tragedy in his life, Henry writes stories in which disaster ''turns out well''.
''His girlfriend or wife has passed away and he can't move on ... a man by himself overcoming something. Henry is so reclusive, so nervous, that he can't talk to the next-door neighbour without stuttering or putting his hand over his mouth. The comedy comes from a serious situation.''
Next year, Skilton wants to try his luck in London ''and break into the big time. I'm at that point in my life''. He has contacts there - ''and what's the worst that can happen?''.
He's only been to London once before - last year, for a month's holiday, ''and I'm hooked. I'm absolutely hooked''.
He felt at home there - and ended up at Boy George's extravagant 50th birthday party in a nightclub with ''people in togas and stuff, drag queens and actors hanging out. I had a good time''.
The invitation came from the mother of a friend. Another good reason for going to London is that his partner, a costume designer, will be doing a masters degree at St Martins College of Art and Design.
''The plan is to finish Johnsons in May, that will be tied up in June, and hopefully leave any day after that. I will just have to make sure I'm not running away from something I should be doing here.''
Paper Sky is at Downstage from November 2 to 17.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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