NEW DELHI: “Sex Education” star Asa Butterfield is happy that their show, a one of its kind young-adult high school series that explores the matters of the body, has normalised the discussion around the word “sex”.
Butterfield plays the show’s lead protagonist Otis Milburn, an awkward teenager who ends up becoming something of a sex therapist to his peers. His partners-in-crime are his best friends Eric Effiong and Maeve Wiley, portrayed by Ncuti Gatwa and Emma Mackey, respectively.
The British series, now in its second season, was a path-breaking success for Netflix with critics hailing its exploration of a number of issues such as sexual performance anxiety, impotency, abortion and social-media shaming among others. With the sophomore installment, showrunner Laurie Nunn has taken the discussion forward by including topics like sexual harassment and importance of consent.
Butterfield said whatever inhibitions he may have had in the beginning, working on the show turned out to be a refreshing experience. “We knew what we were getting into when we started shooting and we have only become more comfortable with the story and the themes that it tackles in the new season,” the actor told PTI in a telephonic interview from London.
Though the show is set in the genre of sex comedy, Butterfield said it explores everything that teenagers go through.
“Everyone has these issues and what we’re saying is that it’s normal. I hope it takes the pressure off from people a little bit. But it’s not just about sex. It’s a coming-of-age story, a love story, a friendship story… It’s very funny, but it’s got a lot of heart.”
The 22-year-old actor, who has featured in films such as “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”, “X+Y” and Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”, is particularly happy that the series has struck a chord with global audience.
“The word sex is still a taboo for so many people around the world. Our show deals with it on so many levels. It makes me feel great that it has been able to resonate with the audiences, not just in the UK but all over. I knew it would be a risky issue to deal with but what I liked was that the script was venturing into an uncharted territory.
“I hoped it would be talked about a bit but the reaction it has got from everywhere has blown me over. I didn’t expect it to connect so instantly with so many people.”
For Mackey, it was important that the story addressed sexual harassment. “There are so many women in the UK and all over the world who don’t report such incidents. People say these cases do not fall into sexual violence but they do. It is harassment and sexual assault. We need to call a spade a spade.
“I think it is important to acknowledge that these cases are indeed referred to as sexual assault incidents. It made me proud that my show calls it.” Mackey, 24, said she wouldn’t have reported sexual assault had she faced it, but after seeing a character in the show go through such an ordeal changed her views.
“It made me happy that my character was correctly able to say that this was sexual assault and Aimee needs to report it. Maeve goes to the police with her and comforts her. That was something I really admired about my character Maeve.”
“It was also eye-opening for young boys as they get to see things and get sensitised about what women go through on a regular basis,” Butterfield added. Gatwa, who plays Eric, an openly gay teenager hailing from a religious Ghanaian-Nigerian family, said the best thing about the show was its gender-neutral gaze.
“We see in the show what happens when there is a gender-neutral lens. We try to show the good and bad. It’s real and raw, and the emotions are on the table. Our show tries give voice to people who thought they didn’t have a voice.
“It’s about openness and having difficult conversations, facing things that don’t make you that comfortable, and I’ve learnt a lot from Eric in that way. It’s what the world needs – a very inclusive, diverse show,” the 27-year-old actor said.
The second season of “Sex Education” is currently streaming on Netflix. PTI