We chat to Dakota Blue Richards, the shining new star of Skins‘ fifth series, which starts this Thursday, 27 January, 10pm on e4.

What can you tell us about the new, third generation of Skins?

“It starts on a lighter, happier note than the last series. I think it got very dark at the end of the fourth series, and they wanted it to feel lighter before they got into any deeper issues.”

Your character, Franky, is the new girl on the block…

“She’s the outsider. She’s come to the college to make a new start because she’s been badly bullied before. Nobody really gets her. She has a distinctive style of dressing. She hates to be labelled – male, female, straight, gay… she just wants to be herself and get on with things.”

How does she fit in with the other characters?

“There’s a tight group of girls and then Franky arrives and everything changes. There’s conflict from the beginning between her and Minnie, who is like the queen bee character. Minnie doesn’t understand Franky at all!”

Did you have to cut your hair off for the part?

“Yes. They told me if I wanted the part I had to be prepared to cut my hair off. It wasn’t too bad though – I’d rather be in Skins with short hair than not get the part at all. I’d wanted to be in the show for a long time.”

People probably best know you for appearing as Lyra in The Golden Compass with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. Were you sad they didn’t go on to film any sequels?

“I’ve got to be careful what I say here. It was disappointing. The third book was my favourite and I really wanted to make that. There were so many things happening behind the scenes while making the first one. The whole ending got re-edited. We were shooting a month before the film premiered. They couldn’t decide whether to market it towards the American audience, or the British audience and in the end, making it for an American audience didn’t work. Sorry – I could rant for hours!”

You’re 16 and just started college yourself – is it anything like Skins?

“No! There are parties and conflicts and things but… well, Skins is heightened isn’t it?”

Watch Dakota as Franky in a clip from the first episode of the new series: