📷 : Sian Trenberth
Since playing Travis in the pilot episode of In My Skin, James Wilbraham returns to the role in the BAFTA-winning comedy drama series launching today on BBC iPlayer, along with other original cast members including Gabrielle Creevy and Poppy Lee Friar. James spent a couple of years in BBC Wales soap Pobol y Cwm as Chester and last year, played the role of Captain Brice in Arcadia at the Richard Burton Theatre. Answering our questions, James speaks about playing the role of Travis in In My Skin, appearing in Pobol y Cwm and training at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.
Can you tell us about your character Travis in the upcoming series of In My Skin?
Travis is the kind of guy that will stick by you even though it’s obvious that you’re in the wrong! His best friends are Bethan and Lydia, and despite the fact Lydia is always quick to take the piss out of him, he’s always there to laugh it off as he’s way too nice to bite back. I think this is also because he knows exactly how it would affect her… Travis considers Bethan his closest friend in the whole world, he thinks she’s fantastic at anything she does and will always be there for her through thick and thin. He is also very hardworking and although he’s unsure of who he is and what he wants to do with his life, he hopes to still be successful whatever happens!
You first played Travis in the pilot episode in 2018, was there anything that drew you to the role?
Kayleigh’s writing for sure, she’s a genius. Having lived in Cardiff all my life, when I read the script, I recognised so many of the funny scenarios and conversations that normal teenagers have. This made it so enjoyable to read and perform because they didn’t feel like saying lines, it felt so natural! I think it’s hard to capture this without it just being cringey, but she manages to do it so well. While still, of course, write really touching scenes, especially between Bethan and her mum.
I think what also drew me to the role was that the series took place in Cardiff and being from this class city, I think it’s important to make great and current content in Wales with Welsh-based actors… of course I’m biased haha!
What’s it like working alongside the rest of the cast?
It was very refreshing working with BAFTA WINNING ACTRESS (By the wayyyyyy!!) Gabby Creevy (Bethan) and Poppy Lee Friar (Lydia) because right off the bat we clicked as a group of mates in real life, so it didn’t even feel like work when we were shooting! I think the fact that Lucy, the director, gave us so much room to improvise the scenes that every take felt so fresh and nothing ever felt stuck which is so rare in a production. It was, without a doubt, the most fun I’ve had on a set thus far!
How was it seeing the show win a Welsh BAFTA for Best Drama?
I had never been to the Welsh BAFTAs before In My Skin got nominated, so the fact it won whilst I attended was just amazing. Seeing all the girls go up to collect the award was surreal. I had so much pride for Kayleigh and Lucy especially because they had worked so hard to make this story special, and it was so nice to have that recognised. We were still filming during the BAFTAs and in fact had just finished a full day of shooting before getting a cab into town and the fact it won just based off the Pilot made me so excited to continue the story.
For those that haven’t seen the show, can you say more about it?
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the screening in London, so I haven’t actually seen the final product! However, what I can say in full confidence is that it’s a perfect balance between Drama and Comedy. It’ll make you laugh; it’ll make you cry, and you’ll fall in love with all the characters as they’re all as likeable as each other in their own unique way.
What was it like returning to film the series after it got commissioned?
It was like a family reunion! Some of the cast and crew had been there since the Pilot and so we felt like a little family coming back together! Of course though, we had new members of cast and crew joining us, and it was so nice to welcome them and grow this little community that had been made.
How long were you filming and how did you spend your time in between scenes?
I think we were filming for about four weeks and I know I should say that I was endlessly going over lines in prep for my scenes, but to be honest I spent most of my time catching up on some sleep in my trailer…! Not to worry, I already had the lines down the night before!
Last year, you played Captain Brice in Arcadia, can you tell us about your character and the show?
This was my first time on stage rehearsing and performing a play. Anyone that knows the play Arcadia can tell you how confusing it is… My character was the Captain of the Royal Navy, so it was great fun getting the knee-high boots on!
Having mostly done TV, it was a very refreshing experience to rehearse with a company of people for two to three weeks and then perform every night for a week and half! It allowed me to make new friends and it has definitely encouraged me to want to do more theatre in the future! It has its own challenges that are different to TV and I’m excited to refine these!
Can you tell us about playing Chester in Pobol y Cwm?
My character on Pobol y Cwm was so much fun to play because he was the village evil child. He was rude, chopsy and a real grumpy teenager. However, he definitely had the ability to tug a few heartstrings, and people would still feel sorry for him because he was still a vulnerable boy. Towards the end of my time on Pobol y Cwm, Chester developed anger issues and depression which was very interesting to explore. It gave me a chance, as an actor, to honour what that meant and to tell an important story for young men, especially in today’s society. A love to hate character, which is always fun!
📷 : Louis Garcia – Pobol y Cwm
How was it being part of the show?
My experience on Pobol y Cwm is hands down one of the best experiences of my life and career. It taught me SO much about the world of TV and I think people may underestimate how difficult it can be to work on a soap opera, it is a real skill and I salute anyone who does it. The hours can be long and the pace at which you need to learn scripts is incredible. Schedules can be changed from day to day and the fact I was still in school was pretty intense for me, but it definitely improved my ability to learn scripts and time manage.
You are also surrounded by the same cast every day and you really do form very close friends because of this. It also really improved my Welsh language which I’ll be eternally grateful for. Shoutout i bawb at Pobol y Cwm, gweld ishe chi! x
You’ve appeared in three short films – 3Wishes, Forward Fix and Ferris & the Fancy Pigeon – can you tell us about each?
3Wishes was a story written by James Owen about a young boy who goes missing after he runs away from home. My character met him during this time and acted as an older brother to him, taking care of him and eventually taking him home.
Forward Fix was a fun one because it was unlike anything I’d done before because it was a Sci-Fi, and being a bit of fan of Sci-Fi, it definitely intrigued me. It followed the story of a sixty-nine-year-old woman that has her consciousness sent back in time by my character, Isaac, to assassinate the future dictator of her country.
Ferris & the Fancy Pigeon was the first short film I did, and it followed the story of Ferris, a teenage boy with a passion for fancy pigeons. I played the school bully in the story, rather similar to my character in Pobol y Cwm to be honest…
What do you enjoy doing away from acting?
I enjoy playing the piano! I’ve played since I was ten years old. I stopped official lessons when I reached Grade 5 because I got bored of having to play what was part of the exam syllabus. Now I play what I want, and it’s always fun to hop on a piano when I see one!
I would also consider myself a keen magician! I taught myself by reading books and watching videos online. I still know a dozen card tricks that make a great conversation starter!
Was there anything that drew you to an acting career?
I know it sounds corny but acting is all I’ve ever done! Since I was a kid, I would go to acting classes and through that I would attend auditions and the rest is history! It’s also fun and an ideal career to have. Like dressing up for adults!!
You trained at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, how was this and why would you recommend applying?
Royal Welsh has been such an amazing experience and I have learnt loads! Don’t get me wrong, Drama School can be tiresome and difficult, but it’s also so much fun. You can’t pretend to be an animal and call it work in any other University so there’s that! I’ve met some really close friends, friends I’ll have for life.
I would urge anyone applying for Drama School to apply to Royal Welsh College because it is full of really talented people, and not just actors. You have amazing designers who are responsible for the set design of all the shows put on there. You also have extremely talented musicians who are always playing in the foyer of the building. So, you can get some free Jazz whilst having your lunch! Not many Drama Schools can offer that!
In short, Royal Welsh has amazing tutors, it’s a great community and the building is beautiful. Everything you’d want in a Drama School.
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