SEX EDUCATION: What can we expect from series 3?
Images from Sam Taylor/Netflix/PA Features Archive
Describing Gen Z-ers as “so socially aware”, Bafta-nominated Gatwa, 28, says “we’re expanding so many conversations regarding gender and sexuality and I think [Sex Education] just hit gold with the timing.”
Opening with a montage of sexual encounters that’s sure to make you sit up and pay attention, the third series of Sex Education, penned by returning Bafta-nominated writer Laurie Nunn, starts as it means to go on.
With Gatwa’s openly gay character Eric Effiong continuing to ride the unrelenting rollercoaster that is his and bully-turned-love interest Adam Groff (Connor Swindells)’s relationship, the new episodes continue to push the boundaries of social acceptability.
Using the gaggle of horny teens as a conduit for discussing a range of sexual health topics, the forthcoming series tackles everything from penis size insecurities to the long-term mental health concerns arising from character Aimee Gibb’s series two sexual assault aboard a bus.
Played by actor Aimee Lou Woods, who won a Bafta for her on-screen portrayal, the continuation of Aimee’s assault story was of vital importance to the twenty-six-year-old.
“Sex Education is very true to life in the way that it conveys that things don’t just get better and better and better,” reflects Woods. “Things go up and down all the time. It’s not a kind of straight line.”
“I think that it was lovely that she gets on the bus with the girls and there’s that beautiful moment, and then it’s all like, ‘Oh, yay. She’s better’. But of course, that is not real life. It’s a process. And actually, that was the start of her journey. It wasn’t the end.
Describing the way in which her character took “steps forward” last series thanks to the unified support of her female peers, Woods is quick to emphasise that “growth is a process”.
“It’s going to be with her forever now – and that’s what she hears in therapy. It’s so true. It’s going to be with her forever. And it’s altered her forever.”
With actress Gillian Anderson returning as heavily pregnant sex therapist Dr Jean F Milburn, we find Moordale Secondary School – now dubbed ‘Sex School’ – under the new leadership of headmistress Hope Haddon, played by Girls’ Jemima Kirke.
Revamping the school in a matriarchal fashion, Hope’s iron-fist approach to education is not to the liking of everyone. From the demolition of the toilet block once used as a sex clinic by Maeve Wiley and Otis Milburn, to the implementation of school uniforms, the show’s central characters find themselves united against a common evil.
“The uniforms were a little triggering,” recalls Ava Butterfield, 24, who reprises his role as Dr Milburn’s son Otis alongside Maeve (Emma Mackey).
“It’s a great part of the show, but I think one of the things I loved is everyone on set’s individuality,” continues Butterfield, best known for his roles in Nanny McPhee and The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas.
“But of course that’s one of the points of the uniforms, it’s to see what happens when you take that away.”
A character now fully embracing the concept of casual sex after losing his virginity to the school’s most popular student, Ruby Matthews, at the end of series two, Otis’ will-they-won’t-they romantic storyline with Maeve is set to continue well into the third series.
That being said, despite the continuation of some of series two’s major themes, Sex Education’s main characters have all undergone a notable transformation when it comes to both their outlooks and levels of maturity.
With Gatwa’s character Eric venturing back to Nigeria for a family wedding, his partner Adam suddenly becomes aware of the country’s tight laws surrounding homosexuality and the potential dangers Eric faces as an openly gay man.
“I think with Eric, he is on this journey of self-acceptance and within that he is going to need to embrace and understand all aspects of his identity,” says Gatwa.
“When he’s out in Nigeria – and it’s a really beautiful moment there actually, because within this country where it’s illegal to be gay, he actually has a moment whereby he feels the most seen he has ever felt and he meets somebody out there that understands him completely in a way that he’s never been understood before.
“I think it’s really important because we get to discuss these issues with humour and great writing and [we are] able to kind of educate in a non-judgmental way.
“We’re not making a statement about Nigeria, but we’re just showing life for what it is. And I think it was just really great of Laurie [Nunn] to bring that conversation to the table.”
With its cross-spectrum appeal and adoption of real-world issues, Sex Education is a no-holds barred expose hinging on empathy, comic timing and its undeniable relatability.
As for whether our habitual love of curtain twitching might also have something to do with the show’s success, Gatwa says that in many ways viewers are “getting an insight into these other people’s lives from the safety of your couch.”
It’s a view seconded by co-star Woods, who reflects on the “embarrassments” the show’s characters go through “so that the audience don’t have to”.
“I will say that when I was in America for a few months, where [Britain] is not as prudish is when talking about the toilet,” laughs the actress.
“You’ve got a lot of toilet humour here, which I love personally. Poo makes me laugh more than anything else in the world.”
Series 3 of Sex Education is available to stream on Netflix from September 17.
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