Sex Education isn’t a sexy show, but that’s what makes it so relatable. Let’s face it: sex can be awkward. And the Netflix series has never shied away from showing the uneasy bits that most teen shows gloss over. In fact, Season 2 leans into the messiness that made the first season so refreshing.
Otis (Asa Butterfield) is no longer Moordale’s unofficial sex therapist, but his mother Jean (Gillian Anderson), a licensed sex therapist, has stepped in to become the school’s official classroom advisor. It’s not an ideal situation for Otis — having your mom talk about sex with your peers never is — but he’s too busy figuring out how to be in an actual relationship with Ola (Patricia Allison) while harboring complicated feelings for Maeve (Emma Mackey) and toward his own sexual urges to worry too much about it. Meanwhile, his best friend and soulmate Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) is embracing his newfound popularity and making heart-eyes at the hot new French student. Everyone is learning and growing… and experimenting.
MTV News chatted with stars Butterfield and Gatwa about Season 2 (streaming on Netflix now), how Otis and Eric are navigating their new relationships, and the sex scene myths the show wisely debunks.
MTV News: We were on the set of Sex Education Season 2. And Asa, you said that the second season goes a bit further, pushes more boundaries. How so?
Asa Butterfield: We have some new characters in Moordale, who are shaking things up a bit. And we see some new issues that Otis helps to tackle and his mum helps to tackle. So we're discussing some new topics, which is exciting because I think it's things that haven't necessarily been in the spotlight before. And our characters, you get a deeper look at their individual worlds and their individual stories.
Ncuti Gatwa: Well said.
MTV News: Ncuti, what about you? How does Season 2 dig deeper into Eric's story?
Gatwa: Eric gets accepted a lot more. He gets into swing band.
Butterfield: Very important.
Gatwa: Which is exciting! It's an exciting new time in Eric's life. In Season 1, we opened the door and peeked into Moordale a bit, and now we're just fully immersed into the world. All the character's storylines have been deepened so much, and we learned so much about all of them. Eric is a popular boy this year, as is Otis. They're both busy boys. And that's interesting.
MTV News: Going into Season 2, did the cast feel more comfortable with each other? What was the vibe like on set?
Butterfield: We came back and it really didn't feel like we'd left, in a weird way. After a week it was like, "Wow, this is strangely familiar." Because we're in the same school, I'm wearing a lot of the same shirts. And it all felt a lot like the first season in some ways, which is great because we all get on so well. But there were some new things to it as well, keeping us on our toes.
Gatwa: There's a new energy. Everything has kind of leveled up this year. We're bringing a lot more food to the table. This season felt like going back to that really fun summer camp. We all cook for each other and live together, and it's just a fun thing to film.
MTV News: After the success of Season 1, did you all feel a little bit more pressure going into Season 2?
Gatwa: Hell yeah. I felt like, "My God, I've got to be funny. Was I funny enough today, or what happened?" There was a lot [of pressure] because the show was received so well and so beautifully. But also like ... oh God.
Butterfield: You've got to live up to expectations. I mean there is a bit of that, but because it did well you get a bit of confidence that what you were doing worked, and the style you'd gone for and your choices worked. People liked it, so you got renewed confidence. There is definitely a sense of, "We've got to try and up it from last year." That is a bit of a challenge, but you can't really let yourself dwell on that too much. I think we're quite good at just taking it day by day.
Gatwa: And the writing as well, like when we got the scripts... Well, when I got the scripts for it, I was like, "I cannot wait to get stuck into this." It was so good. So I feel like that was a nice thing to be confident in, is that the writing is so strong that this is going to be a good season.
MTV News: Otis does make a few jokes in Season 1 about America. And I was thinking how the show would be different if it was set in the U.S. in an American high school. How do you think it would be different?
Butterfield: There are some American elements to the school and the sort of atmosphere, especially in the clothes we wear and the vibrancy in the school, which I think is quite unique to American schools. In the UK, our colleges are always quite kind of depressing and colorless... Devoid of life.
Gatwa: I think we needed a bit of American colour injected into our British uniformed school. How would it be different? I don't know. I feel like that's a crossover question.
Butterfield: Alternate universe.
Gatwa: We should cross over with Riverdale or Stranger Things or something, and then we'll see how that would work.
MTV News: Wow. What would a Riverdale crossover look like with Sex Education?
Butterfield: I'm sure they've got their own sex issues, which we could help out with. I think Eric would be happy for the new jocks joining the school.
Gatwa: I bet he would.
MTV News: Let's talk about Otis and Eric's dynamic in Season 2. Obviously, they were the heart of the first season. Are they still best friends?
Butterfield: Otis and Eric will never not be with each other. Whatever happens, whatever girlfriends there are, whatever boyfriends there are, these two are going to stick together.
Butterfield: They mean the world to each other, I think.
Gatwa: And they complete each other. Their union is so pure because they're so different, but they compliment each other so well. And I think that they see that and they understand that, and that's what they love about each other. They love each other's differences as well, so they ain't going nowhere.
MTV News: That being said, they do have their own relationships this year. Asa, we'll start with Otis. He is in a relationship in Season 2, and that's a big deal. What is he like as a boyfriend? He's never been in a relationship.
Butterfield: So Otis has a girlfriend, Ola. And that's a new territory for him. So he's spending a lot of time with her, which Eric is not too happy about. But he's happy for him, so he's putting up with it.
Gatwa: Eric understands.
Butterfield: But yeah, he's still Otis, so it's not like he's suddenly become super chill and easy to make progress with. So it's baby steps in their relationship. But you know, steps nonetheless.
Gatwa: He's figuring it out.
MTV News: And where does Otis go to for advice when he needs it?
Butterfield: He talks to Eric. I think that's probably his first person. I feel like he shares a lot with Eric. And then his mum as well. As much as he sometimes pushes her aside, he still knows that she can help him a lot and opens up to her. Aside from that, he doesn't really have many people to open up to. He tries to open up to his dad, but he doesn't necessarily give the best advice.
Gatwa: That's a really interesting relationship that we delve into in Season 2.
Butterfield: It is. We get to see a bit more of Remi Milburn.
MTV News: Is there a piece of advice that that Otis gives, either in the first or second season, that you're like, "That's really good advice. That's advice I would use." What's his best piece of advice?
Butterfield: He tells someone in Season 2, "Don't rub bleach anywhere on your body." So that's probably pretty good advice. I think I'd stick by that. Don't rub bleach anywhere.
Gatwa: Otis is full of gems, like full of wisdom. Helping Adam in the toilet in Season 1 was beautiful. "Don't let anyone opinions define you." You know?
Butterfield: "Believe in your strengths. Own your strengths." I think that's important to understand. Taking your time, running your own race, not looking at other people. Just do what's best for you.
Gatwa: A lot of little gems. Otis is a very empowering ... I feel like Otis likes to empower people. He likes to empower [others] to live their truest, best lives.
MTV News: He's like Oprah.
Gatwa: Yeah! Oprah of Moordale. We have him here.
MTV News: Ncuti, let's talk about Eric's love life. You're saying there's a lot of eye candy in Season 2 for him to look at. But there was this really surprising moment at the end of the Season 1 between Eric and Adam. What's the status of that?
Gatwa: Obviously, we see Adam get shipped off to military boarding school at the end of Season 1. Sad, isn't it? Like Eric has just met someone that might fancy him and he fancies as well, and then they get torn apart. So Season 2, we do see Adam return. We also see quite a few people enter Moordale as well, including a young Frenchman by the name of Rahim. He's rumored to be Kim Kardashian's long-lost brother and a Moroccan billionaire's son. He's very mysterious, a mysterious and cool Parisian dude that just catches Moordale's eye. And also Eric's eye. He's got a cracking pair of cheekbones as well. But Eric is very dedicated to swing band this season — and the French horn.
MTV News: I feel like Adam and Eric are a complicated couple to ship because he was so terrible to Eric for so many years. Do you ship them? Do you think fans should be shipping them?
Gatwa: Yeah, so shipping the Eric and Adam storyline, it's an interesting one. It's tricky. I've seen some very interesting memes of people kind of romanticizing Adam pushing Eric into a locker and putting love hearts and romantic music and stuff around it. I would encourage people to not accept or romanticize people pushing you around or grabbing your face and all that kind of stuff. But at the same time, I feel like Adam is such an interesting character, and he's such a cool character to watch because he's full of such light and dark. It's very, very human. None of us are perfect, none of us are 100 percent good, none of us are 100 percent bad. And Adam is dealing with a lot. Like his dad is the headmaster of the school, that's a lot.
Butterfield: That's tough.
Gatwa: He's dealing with a lot with his sense of identity and masculinity. And so I think that's what's given him those rough edges. He's been searching for an affection in his life, and he and Eric met. It was quite a beautiful, human moment between two people who were searching for some sort of affection. And so it will be interesting to see where that goes on to. But don't put up with people pushing you around. It's not sexy.
MTV News: Eric is a character that people really resonated with in Season 1. Why do you think that he connected so deeply with viewers of the show?
Gatwa: I feel like Eric connected with viewers from the show because he's quite a new character to our screens. We're telling lots of new stories nowadays, lots of voices are being heard now, which is amazing. And I feel like he represented strength in a way that hasn't been shown before, like strength in his masculinity, in a way that hasn't been seen before. And I think people identified with that. He represents a lot of different intersections and a lot of different marginalized people — seeing how he's so resilient and bounces back from the trials and tribulations that he's faced with. I get lots of beautiful messages from people telling me that Eric has inspired them to be strong and be themselves. And it might be tricky where they are, where they're living at the moment, and they can watch the show and find strength in that.
MTV News: When we talked ahead of the premiere of Season 1, you both said that you really enjoyed the sets on the show, particularly the Milburn house because there were so many phallic objects and easter eggs hidden on that set. Were there even more added to the Milburn home in Season 2?
Gatwa: There must be more penises added into Season 2. I think there was more peni?
Butterfield: There's definitely some heavily featured phallic objects. I remember they were doing a shot where they had the sun rising. They had this sun rig which casts a sort of morning glow on this dick lamp, and it's kind of this big shadow on the wall. I remember, that was a great shot. They took a while getting that.
Gatwa: Lots of yoni as well. I don't actually know what the scientific term for...
Gatwa: Lots of vaginas as well. There's a lot of vaginas.
Butterfield: It's not just penis shapes. Vagina paintings, vagina murals, flowers... cutlery.
Gatwa: We don't discriminate.
MTV News: I love that. I mean, the show is sex-positive so it makes sense that the set would be as well. To speak to that, I think viewers really connected with how authentic the show depicted sex and intimacy in a way that is quite refreshing. Is there something that makes you laugh when you see intimacy depicted on screen? Like how no one on screen is ever sweaty during sex.
Gatwa: Things I found funny when sex has been depicted before, is just, why do you look so perfect all the time? Why has your hair stayed the same throughout this whole session? You're not sweating at all? There has been some form of physical exertion, and I don't see any form of that.
Butterfield: I appreciate when there's that awkwardness and the difficulty leading up to it. You don't just rip your clothes off. It's like, sometimes, you can't get your button undone. Sometimes the zipper gets stuck. And I appreciate when show is going to the little details like that and humanizes it.
MTV News: It shows how awkward sex can be.
Gatwa: There isn't a wind machine. Sex can be quite awkward, messy, fumbly at times. I feel like we show that.
This interview was written and transcribed by Crystal Bell, and originally appeared on MTV.com.
Main Image Credit: Sex Education, Netflix