The Gentlemen’s Kaya Scodelario spent night on the street at 4 & was troubled teen before making £1.2m as Hollywood star

SHE’S the star of Guy Ritchie’s Netflix series The Gentlemen and has a Hollywood hit list which includes Maze Runner and Pirates Of The Caribbean 5.

But Kaya Scodelario – who first found fame in Skins at 14 – was forced to sleep on the streets when she was just four and has fought her way up from a poverty-stricken childhood to become a screen star, commanding up to £1.2million a movie.

Kaya with co-star Theo James in the Netflix hitCredit: Rex
Kaya says her mum struggled but was ‘my inspiration’
She starred with Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean 5Credit: ©Walt Disney Studios / Supplied by LMK

The 31-year-old has also overcome a sexual assault at 12, troubled teen years which saw her leave home at 16 and, most recently, a split from husband Ben Walker, the father of her two children, after an eight year marriage.

But the plucky star – who plays drug queen Susie Glass in the action-packed Netflix series – says acting was a lifelong dream and “the only thing I was ever good at.”

She sees success as a way of paying back her mum, Brazilian-born Katia, for the sacrifices she made while raising her daughter alone,

“I want to give a life back to her as she gave her whole life up for me,” she has said.


“She had to play the role of mother and father at the same time, and she did it to perfection. I managed to find a way through because of her. My mother is my biggest inspiration.”

Hard childhood

Katia split from Kaya’s dad, Roger Humphrey, when she was just one and, three years later,  she left East Sussex to move to London, taking her four-year-old daughter with her.

Homeless, the pair were forced to sleep on the streets for their first night before being given a council flat in north London, where Katia struggled to make ends meet, working several jobs and battling depression.

“Mum built a life for me in a difficult place, at a difficult time,” she said in 2017.

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“When I was growing up, we didn’t have much money. What was important in my house was to have food on the table, be happy and have our family.”

Kaya also struggled with dyslexia and describes herself as “painfully shy child, very insecure, very anxious”

Vinnie Jones explains his upcoming role on Netflix drama The Gentlemen

She told Hollywood Reporter:  “I was really bullied as a young child, and I changed schools a couple of times. But, I always had this dream that I wanted to act. It was the only thing I was ever brave enough to put my hand up and put myself forward for.

“Growing up in England, being very working class and having an immigrant single mother, I didn’t think that people like me could do things like that.

“I knew I’d never be able to afford to go to drama school or have any coaching. So, I kind of accepted that it wasn’t going to happen at the very mature age of 14, which is quite depressing.”

The star had a tough upbringingCredit: Instagram
Kaya at the premiere of the The GentlemenCredit: Rex
Kaya runs a drugs empire in the Netflix hit

Sexual assault

Kaya was estranged from dad Roger until 2010, a year before his death, and left home at 16 after relations with her mum became strained, although they are now close.

“She raised me alone and she suffered depression most of her life,” she has said. “It can be very dark, very difficult, especially as a teenager. It put a lot of pressure on our relationship.

“I wanted to help but I was 16 and probably not saying the right thing.”

My best friend’s boyfriend was stabbed in Stoke Newington a couple of months before I got offered the role

Kaya Scodelario

As well as her difficult homelife, Kaya was a victim of a sexual assault, when she was 12 – causing a rift with her Brazilian ‘family members’.

In 2018, as the #MeToo movement began to gain momentum, she revealed the “horrific” assault in order to help other abused children to speak out earlier.

“It’s taken me 13 years to say #MeToo,” she wrote on Twitter, adding her alleged attacker is “still protected by ‘family members’ in Brazil. They’ve told lies to papers to try to silence me.”

She added that others who had spoke out gave her the courage to do the same and told Harper’s Bazaar: “I remember thinking that if I was 12 years old and I had this horrific thing happen to me but I saw a woman I admired speaking up about it, it would have made me feel less guilty.

“It would have inspired me to think, ‘This won’t hold me back, this is something that has happened but I am not a victim.’

“So I thought if I can do that for one person then I owe it to my 12-year-old self.”

Age lie

Kaya’s life changed overnight when she landed the role of Effy in the gritty teen drama Skins, at the age of 14.

She later revealed she almost lost out on the part after a lying about her age backfired – because they thought she was too old.

After being told about the open auditions for the show, she dropped by on the way home from school to see who was lining up, but didn’t actually go in.

She was approached by producer Bryan Elsley after he spotted her sitting across the road.

“For some reason, he came over and asked me if I wanted to audition. I said, “Yes,” but I knew I was too young because I was told you had to be 16 and up,” she said. 

“So I lied and said that I was 16 and a half, and he let me audition. Then they called back and said that I was too old so I admitted that I lied about my age. 

“Luckily, they gave me the opportunity. I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Kaya was cast at 14Credit: Channel 4
Kaya (centre) played Effy and dated Jack O’Connell (centre left) who played CookCredit: Handout
She starred alongside Billie Piper in True LoveCredit: B

Effy became one of the longest running characters, from 2007 to 2012, and had hard hitting storylines – which included sex scenes and teen drinking – which Kaya said reflected the life she had known growing up on a council estate.

She said: “My best friend’s boyfriend was stabbed in Stoke Newington a couple of months before I got offered the role.

“I know kids who live like this.”

She also experimented with drink and drugs growing up, although her mum was strict and insisted she was home by 8pm every night, because “she didn’t want me to get pregnant like all the people around me.”

“My mum’s quite open-minded. She’s Brazilian and I think that helps. I always knew about sex, about drugs, about religion,” she adds.

“I did go through a phase of smoking weed but I told her about it and she convinced me to stop. I never smoked it again.

“She’s even made me promise never to do a nude scene. That’s my excuse, producers!”

Kaya’s stint in Skins also led to a role in the BBC drama True Love, in 2012, where she played a schoolgirl seduced by a female teacher, played by Billie Piper, with whom she shared a kiss.

Famous first love

Starring as lovers in the Skins led to an offscreen romance with Jack O’Connell, who she called her “first love.”

“We were so young and at the same time both becoming famous,” she said.

“I was completely in love with him. If he’d told me to jump off a bridge, I would have.”

Jack – who has since starred in Unbroken and Ferrari – “broke my heart” and she says she “spent a whole week in my room crying” after their split in 2009.

She went on to date Shameless star Elliot Tittensor for five years, and supported him when he was arrested after an incident in 2010. 

The actor drove at an 18-year-old who was following Kaya, knocking him down and causing brain damage and was later fined £750 for driving without insurance.

The pair broke up in 2014 but, after the injured man launched  a civil suit for damages, she gave evidence on Elliot’s behalf via video link from Australia – where she was filming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. 

Kaya dated Shameless star Elliot for five yearsCredit: Getty
Kaya and ex-husband Ben met in 2014Credit: GC Images
The former couple have two children together, now aged seven and twoCredit: Instagram

It was also in Australia that Kaya met actor Benjamin Walker, her co-star in The King’s Daughter, in 2014. 

Benjamin, then 31, had just divorced Meryl Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer and quickly fell for the then 22-year-old Brit

He proposed after just six months – when he presented her with a Cartier love bracelet for Christmas then realised he “wanted to buy me an engagement ring” – and they got married at New York City Town Hall in 2015.

I was completely in love with him. If he’d told me to jump off a bridge, I would have

The Maze Runner star told ELLE Magazine: “I never had any family heirlooms, nothing that was ever passed down to me and so when I met my husband and we were falling in love, he bought me a Cartier Love bracelet for our first Christmas together.”

Kaya added: “He says that it was then that he realised that he actually wanted to buy me an engagement ring, so he sort of weirdly proposed with a Love bangle.”

The couple have two children, aged seven and two, who they keep out of the limelight and sadly, in February, they announced their split, saying they had made “the joint decision to end their marriage but continue to co-parent lovingly whilst remaining the best of friends.”

Hollywood hit 

From her Skins launchpad, Kaya landed the role of Cathy in Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights before playing Teresa in Maze Runner series, from 2013. 

She went on to star opposite Johnny Depp in the fifth Pirates movie, in 2017, taking home a reported salary of £1.2m.

But she says her latest role, as drug baron Susie in The Gentlemen, is her coming of age. 


“She’s the first actual woman I’ve played. It’s been a long line of teenagers and young adults,” she told the LA Times. “It was really f***ing cool to play someone who was already there, who is at the top of their game, who is confident and who is unapologetic.”

Seems the Skins star is all grown up – and owning her future.

Ray Winstone stars as Susie’s dad in The GentlemenCredit: Christopher Rafael/Netflix



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