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Sex Education season one was Netflix's biggest surprise of 2019.
Although it has Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson among its ensemble, the teen comedy was largely filled with unknown British talent. Foused on the awkward and embarrassing sex lives of a secondary school, gags about Curly Wurlys and pleasuring courgettes didn’t indicate that it would be a worldwide hit.
But from day one, intrigued viewers turned into Sex Education addicts. Over 40 million households watched the show in the first four weeks. We took the vibrant and vivacious young cast to our hearts, desperately willing for happy endings and coming-of-age moments of joy.
The series sparked hundreds of memes, a brilliant 'No Context' Twitter account and a fierce fandom that is desperately waiting for more romance, climaxes and cringe-inducing dating disasters in season two.
The whole of season two is unleashed on Friday, January 17th and BT TV caught up with the cast and writers to find out what it was like heading back to school for their sophomore year.
Dodgy dancing and Weetabix smoothies
Moordale Secondary is a teenage life we all recognise - the crushing embarrassments, the heartbreak and confusion.
Asa Butterfield’s Otis Milburn has climbed several rungs in the school hierachy in season two thanks to his sex clinic successes in season one.
However, that hasn’t made his personal life any smoother or less awkward. One of season two’s highlights is an impromptu house party at Otis’s house, which thanks to the efforts of Eric and a large amount of booze gets wildly out of hand.
"Yes, those are my own dance moves," laughs Asa, when asked about Otis’ arm-flapping and leg-shuffling drunk routines.
"Otis, we saw in season one, has his own way of dancing. I like dancing, I think I’m a good dancer and I wanted Otis to have his own style.
"He lets himself loose in that episode. A lot of it just came out in the moment. There was just this energy. When you’re acting drunk, by the end of the day you just start to feel drunk.
"And we’re all so close, I just started going for it. I was twerking, I took my top off. It was very heightened, but also very cathartic.
"It was all those things you would want to do in a club, but never do. And I had the freedom to do it."
And what about filming the come-down hangover scenes the following day?
"I love the vomit scenes," says Ncuti, without any hint of sarcasm. "The smoothies that they give you, they are so tasty."
"The vomit is a mix of Innocent Smoothie and Weetabix, which actually tastes quite nice," reveals Asa.
"The only problem is for Sheppy, the key grip on the show. He has a really sensitive gag reflex. So any time there is a vomit scene - like the scene where I throw up on the side of the bike - I remember Sheppy being on the back of a truck, literally dry heaving.
"When anyone hands me the bottle of drink before I have to be sick, I just look at Sheppy and he just can’t look and keep himself together."
The young cast faced one big change when they were filming season two. They are now recognised everywhere.
"I definitely felt the pressure coming back. For all of us. The response to season one was so overwhelmingly positive, you think when is this going to end, you feel like there must be a downside coming,” reveals Ncuti Gatwa, who plays Eric.
For Emma Mackey and Patricia Allison who play Maeve Wiley and Ola Nyman, being recognised in queues for the pub loo has become a frequent hazard.
"It’s always the queues for the loo!" explains Emma. "'Are you the girl from Sex Education?' I just want to go to the toilet, please. That is weird. But it's all love."
Their sudden fame is just as strange for locals in Cardiff, where they film the series.
"Often in Cardiff it would happen when we were shopping. We'd all be together and people were 'oh my God'," laughs Patricia.
"To see the whole cast of Sex Education in Sainsburys must be quite unsettling. Just a gang of us buying some mozzarella."
One of the big behind-the-scenes stories that came out of season one was the show’s decision to hire intimacy co-ordinator Ita O’Brien.
"You never have a fight scene without a fight director. Why would you have a sex scene without a sex director?" says Patricia.
"Or a dance scene without a dance choreographer. You don’t just fling people together in a room," adds Emma.
Out of all the scenes that the cast shoot on the series, the sex scenes sound the most mundane with the biggest challenge being reminding themselves that they’re supposed to be enjoying themselves while being asked to "start on a number two orgasm and work to a number four".
"You have beats. It's not as glamoruous as it might look," explains Emma. "You have to hit certain beats. You come towards him and touch him here, here and here. You kiss for three beats and then move to the wall."
Asa, who Ncuti describes as a "busy boy" this season, said: "It often looks like we're doing things, but often it's just your hand going under a table. You often have to remind yourself in a scene that you’re supposed to be doing stuff so you will be feeling a certain way. Nothing is actually going on. There is no awkwardness. You just have to remember that you're doing more than you think you're doing."
Explaining the lengths that the crew went to in making the cast feel comfortable, Emma said: "We had a whole morning where we talked with the directors, cast and writers about our own experiences of intimacy. A massive conversation. And then we had a more physical session about physical consent. There were animal rhythms and all that stuff. It was a real ice-breaker.
"And then you walk into the room and you feel empowered to say no, no, no to this, this and this. And I've taken it on to other jobs and it wasn't scary doing that. And thank god it's happening. It's really necessary and about time."
Weird School Assemblies
One of the centre-pieces to season two is a school production of Romeo and Juliet, with Kedar Williams-Stirling taking a lead role as Jackson swaps the swimming pool for the stage.
However, because this is Sex Education, this is no ordinary Shakespearian production.
"The costume - I looked a bit like Ant Man. The most majestic Ant Man you’ve ever seen. It was unreal," says Kedar.
"The production was amazing with the dancers... the set with the penis tree!"
Connor Swindells who plays Adam Groff continues: "It was breathtaking. When I arrived on the set, I said, ‘this is mad’."
However, the big set piece scenes with the whole school together are often also the most challenging.
"The hardest scenes to film are the big assembly scenes. They take so long just for a short scene," said Swindells.
"There are hundreds of people, it’s hot, there’s only a little green room and no phone signal. So we have to talk to each other. Ha, ha. They are really hard to do."
Kedar adds: "The musical took days. And it was so hot. Repeating over and over again to get the angles. It was fun, but very hot. Luckily Jackson is supposed to be bricking it, so I was fine to sweat a bit."
Writer Laurie Nunn got a surprise from director Ben Taylor when we spoke to them about the new series, when Ben confessed to shooting an alternate ending to season two in secret.
"I shot a thing just to see. Just to be naughty, because occasionally I can be," revealed Ben.
A shocked Laurie replies: "Imagine if that ended up going on Netflix! If you’ve just left it in - I’d be like, ‘what is happening here!’"
We don’t want to drop any big spoilers about the ending, but it’s definitely going to be a major talking point when the series drops.
"I think shoes will be thrown at screens. In a good way," says Ben. "I love being p***ed off at stuff. You think you want it, but you don’t.
"[The cast want] the closure for their characters. But you’re not going to get that yet."
Laurie teases cruelly: "They may never get it."
Sex Education season 2 is streaming now
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