Georgia Humphreys meets some of the cast of the hit Netflix comedy which returns for a second series today
PLENTY of TV series have launched on Netflix and become instant hits. But few have broken barriers like Sex Education, about high school student Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), who sets up a sex clinic for fellow pupils with his friend Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey).
Inspired by living with his sex therapist mother Jean (Gillian Anderson), the socially awkward teen realises he has an intuitive talent for giving advice — and it seemed to strike a chord with viewers.
While the streaming service doesn’t release specific viewing figures, the coming-of-age comedy drama was certainly the programme many people seemed to be talking about last winter, following its January release.
Butterfield, 22, witnessed its impact first-hand, with fans approaching him on the street.
“People really, really connected with it,” recalls the Londoner who, as a child, starred in historical drama, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas.
“People were telling us how much it helped them. I don’t think we expected it to have such a profound effect on people, and people really felt empowered by the show, which is amazing.”
In series one, plenty of questions most teenagers have — but are probably too embarrassed to ask — were explored, covering everything from sexual identity to societal pressures to sexual health.
Series two, once again written by its British creator, Laurie Nunn, promises to be just as forward- thinking, and wonderfully witty.
Late bloomer Otis tries to master his newly discovered sexual urges in order to progress with his girlfriend.
Meanwhile, a standout part of the first series was the really touching portrayal of male friendship — and there’s lots more scenes between Otis and best friend Eric (played by Ncuti Gatwa) to come.
Other upcoming storylines include a chlamydia outbreak hitting Otis’ school, Moordale, highlighting the need for better sex education, plus there are new kids in town, challenging the status quo.
Arguably the funniest character in the show has been Aimee Gibbs. Aimee Lou Wood, who plays her, calls her “the everywoman”. Wood was involved in one of the most memorable sequences from the first series, when we saw Aimee in a really honest portrayal of female masturbation.
It’s something the bubbly Stockport-born star, 24, wishes she had seen on TV when she was younger: “We were taught that sex was for making babies and that was basically it, so our pleasure was this enigmatic thing that didn’t really exist, and it was always portrayed like in American Pie; anyone who enjoyed sex was kinda ‘the crazy nympho’ who’s a bit unhinged,” she suggests.
“So, you think, ‘Oh, am I the crazy nympho that’s a bit unhinged, because I’m definitely horny right now?’ And then you go into school and you pretend that you’ve never experienced masturbation. Girls pretended like they didn’t even know what it was!
“I remember having really frank conversations about a lot of stuff with my friends and that was the one thing that was a complete taboo.”
Being part of Sex Education has taught her to be a lot braver, she muses.
“As an actor, it’s quite easy to focus on ‘What’s my next job?’ and ‘Am I going to look great in it?’ and ‘Am I going to come across well?’
“But when you’ve been a part of something that means so much to so many people, you’re free from a lot of vanity that I think actors struggle with, because it’s like, ‘Oh, actually, if I can be as honest as possible, and as non-vain as possible, it’s going to actually have an effect on people’, which is so amazing.”
Series two of Sex Education launches on Netflix on Friday, January 17