Jessica Sula built up a fan following by starring in the British series, Skins, in 2011 and 2012. Now she’s made the leap to American television with a starring role in Freeform’s new dramatic series Recovery Road. The network (formerly known as ABC Family) presented a panel at the Television Critics Association event in Los Angeles, and following the Q&A I had the opportunity to sit down with Sula, along with a few other journalists, to discuss Recovery Road as well as her time on Skins.
The Plot: “Based on the popular young adult novel by Blake Nelson, Recovery Road focuses on Maddie (Sula), a teenage girl dealing with addiction. Maddie has a reputation as a party girl who doesn’t think she has a problem, until she’s confronted one day by her school guidance counselor and is forced to choose between expulsion and rehab. Maddie makes the difficult decision to live with other recovering addicts at a sober living facility while facing the daily pressures of her teenage life.”
Recovery Road premieres on January 25, 2016 at 9pm ET/PT.
Jessica Sula Interview:
How curious were you about what goes on in this world?
Jessica Sula: “I was very curious. We watched a lot of different, strange documentaries on the internet about sober living houses, AA meetings, and different effects of drugs and the way it affects different societies. And then I read a lot of different books. There’s lots of book, and you can go to the 12 Step book store and get different things.”
Did you visit any AA meetings?
Jessica Sula: “I’ve only been to one with my friend, but it was actually an Al-Anon meeting. The thing is AA has been going on since 1935 and it’s something that people don’t even know. It’s still hush-hush, so this is bringing it out in the complete mainstream. You know what I mean? I think it’s a good mainstream show on a topic that, surprisingly, no one really talks about.”
How does it feel to be a part of Recovery Road and out promoting your first American series?
Jessica Sula: “I’m very excited. I think it’s quite overwhelming at the moment. I’ve just been home for four weeks so coming back here and talking about the show is a vast change in reality for me. I would hope that it sends out a positive message and people are more empathetic toward the disease, addiction. It doesn’t become a taboo subject. It’s a family show, a young show, so it reaches out to young people.”
Do you think your fans from Skins will get into Recovery Road?
Jessica Sula: “I think Skins fans will enjoy it. They may miss the content of Skins. It’s just so different. It’s different but it’s similar. It deals with youth culture. We had a lot more liberties. Our network had a lot more liberties than ABC Family, however they are branching out. They are testing the waters. Quite a few things that happen in the episodes, some of the parts you wouldn’t expect.”
How would you describe your character in Recovery Road?
Jessica Sula: “She’s a darker character. Maddie is definitely darker than Skins‘ Grace. She a lot of demons that she needs to go through and battle and recognize. And it was just exciting to be able to portray that.”
Are you able to put that away at the end of the day?
Jessica Sula: “Yes, very much so. I have a great cast for that. You know, there are times when it’s quite overwhelming. But certainly I am able to go home and leave it.”
Has doing this show maybe made you consider your own approach to having a drink or two?
Jessica Sula: “Oh, yeah. You certainly do think. But then I think it’s something that you also know, too. I don’t really have…it’s part of the brain that has an addiction problem. Everybody has a vice, I suppose, and it does make you think about that deeply because it can come in all shapes. Like, ‘What am I really addicted to? What is it that I’m hooked on?’ I still haven’t found that out.”
For those who aren’t familiar with your previous work, what do you want viewers to know about you?
Jessica Sula: “They should know that I’m a gal that is taking it, seriously, each day at a time when it comes to all of this. I do like to have a cup of tea and sit home.”
Do you still live in the UK?
Jessica Sula: “I’m currently moving over here.”
What’s the biggest cultural difference for you?
Jessica Sula: “Well, you see, I was in New York for two and a half years, however I was living on different couches. I was living with different friends and working in different restaurants and auditioning at the same time, but now I am actually able to get an apartment.”
How did that time working in restaurants help you? Did it make you work harder to get acting roles?
Jessica Sula: “It did. I did go from Skins to like then just a big gap and just auditioning. I did an indie called Honeytrap, went from that to a big gap to Recovery Road. The gap was enough for me to actually get some urgency and ambition.”
You were working in restaurants after you did Skins?
Jessica Sula: “Yes, I was. Everything in England is compact; it’s quite small and nothing is made into something big. Everything’s underwhelming, so I suppose you get used to it. And then coming to America it helped with the accent, two years of me just working and listening to everything.”
Did anyone recognize while you were working in restaurants?
Jessica Sula: “Every once in a blue moon I’d be giving someone drinks and they’d say, ‘Weren’t you that…? I know, you were that girl in Skins.’ I’d be like, ‘Yes.’”
Do you feel closure with Skins? Were you happy with your arc?
Jessica Sula: “You know, I processed it a year after I left and then I felt a complete closure. And now it’s coming back full circle working with Seth on Recovery Road. I do hope the fan base from Skins comes across and watches Recovery Road.”
What was it that allowed you to process it a year later?
Jessica Sula: “I auditioned when I was 15, turned 16 when we started. Everything happened very, very young. I did an open audition and I didn’t expect to get anything. A month later you’re starting filming.”
Did you ever watch the American MTV version?
Jessica Sula: “I did a couple of times but I didn’t have cable so I couldn’t.”