Last week we exclusively introduced Netflix’ upcoming original show Sex Education, starring Gillian Anderson and Asa Butterfield – and we’re convinced it will soon become your new favourite show. Why? For starters, it features a charming cast of heaps of exciting fresh faces whose Instagram follower counts are destined to skyrocket after the show launches. Secondly, it is packed with countless laugh-out-loud moments that are equally as insane as they are relatable. And last but not least, it tackles issues of sex education, coming-of-age and first love in never-seen-before ways. Sound good? We asked the female stars of the show Emma Mackey and Aimee Lou Wood why you just have to tune in this Friday…
How did you get into acting in the first place?
Aimee Lou: My story is kind of classic: I was the weird kid who made friends by being funny in drama class, which then somehow turned into a career. Later on I went to RADA, which was an amazing experience. I have been out of there for a year now and it’s been great so far.
Emma: Mine’s a bit long, so I am going to try to keep it short. I grew up in a small town in the North of France – my dad is French and my mum is English. It was a very quiet town and there weren’t really any drama groups or classes around. I worked really hard, went to university in Leeds and it wasn’t until I moved to the UK that I started taking acting lessons. I had my first audition, did some plays and directed some plays. Then I moved to London and it happened – I got an agent and started this journey.
Aimee Lou: And look where you are now!
How did you get cast in Sex Education?
Emma: Through my agent! I did four auditions in total, including the chemistry read – which is the final round where you read the potential characters in a group.
Aimee Lou: I actually went for a different part, three times. On the fourth time they were like: ‘Great, but it’s now a completely different character. Can you come in tomorrow as Aimee?’. Aimee spelt just like my name. It was meant to be. The universe. I knew I really wanted to be in the show and was so in love with the character I initially went for, but then that love has transferred seamlessly to Aimee.
What did it mean to you to know you’d been cast in a Netflix show?
Emma: It’s just very exciting. I’m quite pragmatic, so there’s a huge part of me that’s like ‘it’s just a job’ – so I want to get the job done, enjoy myself and do what I have to do. But it is really exciting, and it’s nice to know that it’s all going to be released at once and that people have control over how much they want to see. It’s just a really cool show to be a part of.
Aimee Lou: I’m so glad it’s all released at once, so you can just binge it straight away. But I also think you have to stay a bit detached. If I really connected to what was going on I’d probably be freaked out by now.
Emma: There’s definitely nerves though. Seeing it fully finished as a complete show was quite overwhelming.
Aimee Lou: Yes, when I first watched it I was like ‘oh sh*t, this is real’. With all the music and everything it just looks so great.
What was your first reaction when you read the script?
Aimee Lou: Initially I only got the pages for the original part I went for, Lily, and I had never met a character like her on TV. I remember thinking ‘oh my god, this is such a sexually confident, nerdy, amazing girl’. When I got more of the script I was just blown away. I have never seen anything like it. Laurie Nunn is just such a good writer, and she has written it from such an honest place. She doesn’t glamourise anyone. Anyone who initially might seem like the person you wanted to be at school, that illusion is shattered and you get to the real grit of who they are. Every character is so funny formed and flawed.
Emma: Yes, I love that every single character is flawed and that they all make bad choices. That’s what makes it so great. Not all the characters are likeable, which I like. Some of them are even so unlikeable that you end up loving them. That’s the beauty of it, that it’s a weird and wonderful collection of human beings.
Can you introduce me to your characters in the series?
Emma: My character Maeve is a bit of a lone wolf, and she doesn’t really belong to any group of people in the school. She is very much in her own world and doesn’t rely on anyone apart from herself. That’s great because she is very independent and intelligent, but it also means she doesn’t let anyone in and has a load of defence mechanisms up. That was very interesting to play with.
Aimee Lou: I think that Aimee on first viewing could seem like she’s just your typical girl in the popular group and is a bit shallow. In the script it actually said ‘shallow with a heart of gold’ and that is so cute, because it’s so true. She’s just desperately seeking validation, approval and a place to fit in. She does that by any means possible. I just love her, because she’s lovable but also deeply flawed. Deeply flawed.
Would you say you relate to the experiences they each make on the show?
Emma: Yeah, I think that you have to relate to a character in some way, otherwise it’s not truthful. When I was 17 I was living alone and because I’d moved to a new city I was already very independent and on my own path. I buried myself in my studies a bit, kind of like Maeve, to escape the drama of being in a clique. But Maeve is definitely way more badass than I was, and I was way more naive.
Aimee Lou: I think that Aimee really overbooks herself, and she’s putting what everyone else wants way above what she actually wants. She doesn’t even know what she wants. It’s gone so deep that now she just figures out who she is from what other people tell her. And for me, there’s definitely been times where I almost felt like a performing monkey. It was like ‘oh do that funny thing you do’, but I didn’t actually want to do it. But I did it anyways because I wanted to please everyone. That’s how she was so relatable to me when I read it.
Your two characters strike up a bit of an unlikely friendship. How would you describe their relationship?
Emma: I don’t think it’s really explained in the new script, but there’s an idea that Emma once was part of the popular group. Now they don’t hang out anymore, but Aimee and Maeve have kept this secret friendship where they play cards and smoke cigarettes and just talk. Aimee is probably the only person Maeve can be herself with and let her guard down. When you see them together it feels like Maeve is finally taking a breath, is chilling out and has a laugh.
Aimee Lou: The same goes the other way around. Aimee is only herself with Maeve. She’s always putting on an act with everyone else. Thats a true friendship. I think I would also be friends with Aimee in real life, but I would just shake her and urge her to wake up and realise that she’s already got a true friend in Maeve.
How would you describe the show to someone who hasn’t heard of it?
Emma: Sex Education is a show about a school boy called Otis whose mum is a sex therapist. He is a virgin but he has this catalogue of knowledge surrounding sex, fantasies and fears. He has a best friend called Eric and eventually he meets Maeve and they start up their own sex therapy clinic in the school to make money and for him to gain more notoriety.
Aimee Lou: No stone is left unturned, because every episode will offer you a new sex ‘problem’, and that’s what’s so great. It’s such an ensemble and there are so many different stories running at the same time, so everyone who watches it will have at least one story that they can relate to. Sometimes it can be quite isolating when you love a TV show but you don’t see yourself in it. With this it’s quite impossible not to find someone who is like you.
There are still so many things that aren’t addressed with ‘normal’ sex education, but this show deals with most of them. Do you think you would have benefited from being able watch Sex Education as a teenager yourself?
Emma: Absolutely. It’s so comforting to know that there’s so much more to it. There’s this habit in Western society that schools only educate kids about the basics of reproduction. That’s it. But it’s not just that. There’s this whole journey of self-discovery in so many of the characters in the show and that’s just brilliant. It’s so much more realistic, open and genuine and that’s so exciting.
Aimee Lou: And it’s not a group of sweaty guys going ‘who are we going to pursue this year’, or ‘who’s going to get laid at prom’. That’s all had it’s time and can be funny. But the girls in those stories tend to be the prize or the nymphomaniac – shown in a completely flat and shallow character. This isn’t a crude show, it’s real and it’s awkward and cringe, because it’s real. I think it’s actually easier to watch the really extreme slapstick, because that’s not real life and isn’t relatable. This is.
These awkward moments in the show you mention… Were they also awkward to film?
Emma: I actually don’t recall feeling awkward. It was all quite fun, because it was quite choreographed and almost like a dance. We had an intimacy coordinator and spoke about it loads before and even had an entire workshop day to get used to the sex scenes. It was very open, communication was there from the start and it was respectful.
Aimee Lou: The morning of my first sex scene I was very nervous and didn’t think I could do it. But then as soon as I was there with everyone it was totally fine and these scenes really became the most fun to shoot.
It’s a really diverse and interesting young cast. Did you guys all get along?
Emma: It was great because in the first two weeks of filming we were in this incredible house in the middle of nowhere and there was no signal. At all. So in the green room between scenes it was just most of the cast in one room getting to know each other. We were telling each other horror stories, funny stories, spoke about our families and it was the perfect time to bond. From the beginning it just became a big family straight away and was so comfortable. It was like a summer camp almost.
Aimee Lou: It was! It was like as if school had been fun. If young adults did school it would just be great. If everyone kind of knew who they are in school, it would be the most fun environment. That is what it was like.
Emma: And the crew was amazing too. Everyone really was just excited to go to work every day.
Sex Education is coming to Netflix this Friday, 11th January 2019.