It’s almost time for Moordale to open its doors again! Netflix‘s brilliant comedy-drama series Sex Education—which depicts teenage sexual adventures with humour, warmth and openness—is finally returning for a third season after production delays due to the pandemic, and we can’t wait to check in with Otis (Asa Butterfield), Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), Maeve (Emma Mackey) and the rest of the gang.
Skipping the summer, the new season starts with a time jump and sees some surprising twists: Otis has a secret affair; Eric and Adam (Connor Swindells) are official; Maeve, who still doesn’t know about Otis’ confession voicemail, is in a good place with Isaac (George Robinson); and a very pregnant Jean (Gillian Anderson) has not yet told Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt). What’s more, new headmistress and former student, Hope Haddon (Jemima Kirke), returns to Moordale with a mission to return the school to its glory days—though that doesn’t bode well for the students.
Ahead of the hit show’s new season premiere tomorrow (September 17), we caught up with Asa and Ncuti via Zoom to find out what’s in store, their favourite scenes together, and the message they hope to convey this season.
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How was it like filming and working on Season 3?
Asa Butterfield (AB): For most of us, it was the first bit of work we had in months and we had all expected it to go ahead before, obviously, the climate in the world… but of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. We were all just dying to be in such a social show. And everyone just gets on so well—the cast and the crew, we’re all so close at this point. We were all just really happy to be back, being creative, being with the team and having fun.
What can you tell us about your character arcs this season?
AB: I’d say it’s the moustache [laughs]. Otis has grown up some more, and is now sporting a moustache that he’s very proud of—not many people would really approve but that doesn’t stop him. The ‘stache was funny. It was fake, so they’d stick it on every morning and it would tickle my nose a bit. Otis has had quite a break and is seeing someone new—I think people would be surprised to find out who—and seeing how that relationship blossoms. I feel like his sassiness is coming out this year, which I had a lot of fun playing with. We had way too much fun at times, and Ben the director had told me to reel it in a bit [laughs].
NG: Eric is in a relationship with Adam now, and they’ve spent the whole summer together. I was really excited to just explore what they are like as an official couple because they’ve had such an interesting rollercoaster of a journey. They’re really happy together, but things just aren’t quite clicking in the way that they maybe should be. I was excited to explore how they try to iron out the creases. Eric is also continuing on his journey of self-exploration and he’s a lot more in touch with his culture and heritage this year. He’s figuring out how that informs his identity and how he approaches his sexuality.
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Otis and Eric often share sweet and funny moments together. What are some of your favourite scenes together this season?
NG: There’s a couple this season… the scene where Otis comes to tell Eric some very exciting news.
AB: Yeah, that’s one of our favourites. Eric doesn’t believe in him at first until all the pieces clicked together. That was fun. And um… the other scene [laughs].
NG: Yeah, oh yeah [laughs]… After Eric tells Otis that [laughs] he and Adam were going to go all the way—that was a very fun scene too. Any scene that I’ve got with Asa is a favourite, to be honest. You can only be as good as the person you are in a scene with, and he’s just the most amazing person to be in a scene with.
AB: Whether it’s making up songs and dancing up the stairs, which we do and was totally unscripted, or just little interactions we share during scenes, magic comes out when we’re together and those become some of my favourite beats in the show.
Otis and Jean have a loving and sometimes complex relationship. How has the parent-child dynamic evolved this season?
AB: Things have kind of settled down with them this season. It’s the first time we’ve seen Otis and Jean becoming more supportive of each other, partly because Otis is being more grown-up and less reactive, and a bit more mature in the way he deals with the difficulties of being at home. It’s nice to see them get a bit closer and have conversations without being at each other’s necks. Jean’s pregnancy touches on discussions surrounding older parenting and peoples’ prejudices about women and maternity in general—Gillian’s had a lot of funny scenes and touching moments in the hospital. She’s lovely and a lot of fun.
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Style is central to Eric’s identity. What are some defining/standout style moments fans can look forward to this season?
NG: Eric’s makeup has evolved a lot this season. He’s really stepped up and I think he’s progressing on his journey of unapologetic-ness, so his makeup is really strong. Also, I guess everyone has a different look this season because of the uniforms, which stripped a lot of individualism away, but Eric tries to make it work for him. There’s a cute double date… that’s another little moment—and there’s some mega lashes and gold eyeshadow. In Eric’s storyline this season, we’re also exploring his heritage and culture a lot more. He produces lots of strong fashion moments so look forward to that.
Who are your favourite characters in the series?
AB: I’ve always had a soft spot for Adam as a character, especially in Season 1. Eric is the light and the sun in the show; he brings a lot of joy. Aimee is hilarious. Lily, who has a really beautiful storyline this season about shame and bullying, is weird and wonderful.
NG: Maeve is a strong favourite of mine. I love her fierceness, rebel nature and punk attitude. Love Jackson as well… and oh yeah, Otis and his little quirks.
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Which character do you relate to the most IRL?
NG: I feel like there’s always a little bit of you in your character, but I also feel there’s a little bit of each character in all of us. There’s a little bit of Aimee, a bit of Jackson… I guess I relate to Jackson the most. The guy’s got a lot of pressure on him [chuckles]. He’s a great guy, and it’s nice to see this more ideal Black excellence. Jackson has a lot of vulnerability in him as well as a lot of traditional strengths. Lily is just such an individual and I love her individualism.
AB: I definitely relate to parts of Otis because I put a lot of myself into the character. I agree with Ncuti on Jackson, I think he’s quite a relatable guy in terms of dealing with pressure, anxiety and expectation—and not knowing what you want or who you are, what to do with your life. I think everyone can relate to that in some way.
Why do you think it’s important to normalise sex and sexuality? What messages do you hope to convey with Season 3?
NG: I think it’s important to normalise conversations about sex and sexuality because it’s an undeniable aspect of life. Everybody is here because of it and everybody has a relationship with their own sexuality, so why would we not talk about something that’s so prevalent in all of our lives?
There’s also so much mystery around it, which contributes to the danger that can come from that. I think the more alleviation on the mystery that surrounds these topics, the better. It’s a taboo that doesn’t need to be, which can lead to feelings of shame—a very important theme this season. All the characters deal with shame or shaming in some way. That’s the message we’re trying to convey this season; we’re working against shame. It’s okay to pick yourself, to pick individualism.
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Sex Education Season 3 hits Netflix on Friday, September 17. Meanwhile, check out the trailer below if you haven’t.