Sex Education Season 2 cast Asa Butterfield, Emma Mackey, and Ncuti Gatwa on representation and sex positivity
There's no doubt that Netflix's Sex Education is explicitly titled. However, its lead protagonists, virginal 16-year-old Otis Millburn (Asa Butterfield) and rebellious teen Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) nothing like the provocative youth in HBO's druggy romp Euphoria. Instead, audiences — both young and old — have fallen in love with their honest and heartfelt portrait of adolescent sexuality.
In season one, Otis ironically follows in the footsteps of his sex therapist mother by teaming up with Maeve to provide 'sex therapy' to their fellow high school mates who were fraught with body insecurities. Otis develops feelings for Maeve, but somehow, both find themselves entangled in complicated relationships with another.
Otis' gay best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), on the other hand, is exuberant on the outside but he struggles to come into his own when he gets involved with the school's popular yet sexually confused jock, Adam Groff (Connor Swindells).
At the heart of it, the success of Sex Education's first season lied in its defiant depictions of true-to-life teen relationships and explorations of potent contemporary issues such as consent and pro-choice. Its second season — which was released last week — is expected to continue in that same winning vein while providing some much-needed answers to several cliff-hangers. Will Otis and Maeve finally get together? What's going to happen between Eric and Adam?
We spoke to rising British actors Asa, Emma, and Ncuta over the phone from London to discuss everything from season two's raunchy opening scenes to the show's strong sense of representation.
Congrats on the release of the second season last week! Three of you have inhabited your characters for two seasons now. Have there been any key takeaways?
Asa Butterfield: I'm certainly more comfortable talking about sex. I hope everyone who watches this show comes out a bit more comfortable talking about sex, because it shows us that sex is normal. It's part of life; it's not something that you should be ashamed about.
A lot has been said about the opening scenes. Are there any other scenes in season two that you would like to forewarn viewers in Singapore about?
Asa Butterfield: There are quite a few big sequences and things to look out for. Obviously, the opening of the first episode is quite something. Then, there's a big party scene in the sixth episode. Otis hosts a big party and, as you can imagine, it quickly gets out of hand.
The second season introduces new faces and touches on more controversial issues. What stood out for you in the second season, particularly?
Emma Mackey: There is more representation and inclusivity with the introduction of new characters from different places. We're going from strength to strength in terms of storylines and actors, which is really something to be proud of.
Ncuti Gatwa: Yes, we are definitely building on a lot of themes that were first touched upon in the first season. For example, the unity between the women on screen is really strong.
Asa Butterfield: This season really goes into adult relationships and shows that it isn't just teenagers who are struggling with their sexual relationships. Adults are just as confused and messy. It's nice to see that they are figuring it out just like everyone else.
Maeve has really dismantled the traditional notion of who a high school girl is. How can we nurture more sex-positive environments amongst young girls, especially in schools?
Emma Mackey: I don't necessarily have the right answer for that, but this show certainly helps. Broadly speaking, the show is able to reach so many homes, because Netflix's reach is so vast. The fact that the show exists has already been a massive help to a lot of young women and men. It's healthy to show such a variety of female characters on screen. A lot of young girls will feel less lonely and will feel more empowered to own their narrative. Hopefully, they'll be more resilient, braver, and not feel ashamed about anything. We're trying to give people the tools to simply exist in a healthy way and talk about things without feeling pressure.
Is there a part of Maeve that you would love to see evolve in the future?
Emma Mackey: She grows quite a lot in season two. People would want to root for her and want her to be happy. I would love to see her in more wholesome relationships and be allowed to be healthy in season three. Hopefully, she will be around people who make her happy as opposed to people who are toxic for her.
This season explores a lot of queer sex. How do you think the show is breaking stereotypes?
Ncuti Gatwa: It does it by simply showing them on screen. Visibility is the first step. In season two, we expand our LGBTQ spectrum to allow more faces and identities to come through. It's really exciting to tell these narratives.
The show has sparked a lot of conversations and normalized a lot more. Do you ever have fans come up and talk to you about personal things that they're going through?
Ncuti Gatwa: It's nice when parents are able to come up and say that they're now able to have a really good conversation with their son or daughter. It's cool to be a catalyst for these kinds of conversations. In terms of advice about sex, I feel like people know that we're actors and they need to go elsewhere for those answers!
What would you say to young people who are struggling to figure it all out?
Emma Mackey: Watch Sex Education. You'll feel less lonely. This show helps. It helped me, a 24-year-old woman to feel less lonely and to make sense of certain things in my life. The best way is to tell yourself that you're not in a race and that there's no rush. Everything happens for a reason, so just believe and take your time.
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