The British teen rom-com lives on with Sex Education, Netflix’s latest addition to a growing roster of new series to premiere in 2019.
If you like a good romantic comedy, want to watch an honest and hilarious portrait of teen angst, or perhaps just have legitimate, unanswered questions about human sexuality, then look no further: Sex Education is the show for you. Sex Education gets an A+ and the critics seem to agree. It’s funny, progressive, and doesn’t place moral judgment on atypical behaviors or characteristics. It even offers up a framework to follow for LGBTQ teens, a group that has historically been left out of the discussion when it comes to actual sex ed classes in schools. It’s informative, too: the lessons Otis and company learn from (and teach to) their peers over eight episodes often set the record straight for a lot of common misconceptions and inaccuracies about human sexuality that infiltrate the culture and often spend years unchecked. When Otis Milburn starts an unsanctioned sex clinic at his high school, plenty of his peers pour in for advice. He becomes a bit of an unwilling icon of sexual mastery (despite being inexperienced himself) but helps his fellow classmates to see that there is nothing wrong with them, awkwardness is natural, everyone has questions, and no one has all the answers.
Sex Education also excels at taking the typical teenage character tropes and turning them on their heads. In real life, people may fall under archetypical personality brackets, but no one is as one-dimensional as the oversimplified versions of young people that are often portrayed on TV. Otis is awkward and inexperienced, but brilliant at helping others with his advice. Classmate Maeve is often unwelcoming and snide, but there’s a reason she holds onto a cold exterior. Even the school bully is more nuanced than your average brainless brute. You won’t find any outdated tropes on Sex Education—it is truly an of-the-moment show that fits perfectly in 2019. The cast is comprised of mostly newcomers, but each performer is a breakout star in their own way. Here, meet the cast of Sex Education, sure to be your next weekend Netflix binge.
21-year-old Asa Butterfield plays Otis Milburn, an awkward high school student living with his single mom, a sex therapist played by Gillian Anderson. Chalk it up to a lifetime of living under his mother’s roof with her open and honest dialogue about sex, but Otis possesses a gift—he’s really good at listening to people and helping them solve their problems. In high school, everything is a big deal (and perhaps things only appear to be even bigger deals than they actually are in the long run), and sexual dysfunction is not something that everyone feels comfortable talking about, but Otis knows how to navigate the ins and outs of teenage psychology better than most. Along with a sarcastic outsider (with a soft spot underneath) named Maeve as his business partner and his best friend Eric as his moral support, Otis reluctantly poses as an unlicensed professional and runs a sex clinic at Moordale Secondary.
Where you’ve seen him before: Audiences may be familiar with Butterfield for his contributions to the sci-fi fantasy genre—he played the titular character in the 2013 adaptation of Ender’s Game, the paranormal-afflicted protagonist in Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for the Peculiar Children, and a teenage human born on Mars in The Space Between Us. He also starred as Mordred in Merlin, a shortlived series about the fictional wizard, in 2008, and appeared in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas a decade before that, when he was just ten years old.
Emma Mackey plays Maeve, Otis’s quick-witted “business partner” whom he may (or may not) have a crush on, and who keeps her past to herself.
Where you’ve seen her before: Aside from a 2016 appearance in a television horror movie called Badger_Lane, Mackey’s role as Maeve on Sex Education is the biggest project she’s done. So, you likely haven’t seen her elsewhere on the screen, but she is also slated to star in a drama called Summit Fever, about a mountain climber in Chamonix. Any other times you thought you saw Mackey, you probably just actually caught a glimpse of a young Margot Robbie instead.
Ncuti Gatwa plays Eric, Otis’s openly gay best friend and confidante who wishes for popularity. Despite being very different in terms of their respective sexualities, Otis and Eric share everything, and even dress up for a yearly pilgrimage to watch a performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch together.
Where you’ve seen him before: The actor grew up in Scotland, and has appeared on stage in a handful of Shakespeare and Molière productions. Gatwa also appeared in Stonemouth, a BBC crime drama mini-series, in 2015.
On Sex Education, Kedar Williams-Stirling plays Jackson, a popular varsity swimmer who has won over the adoration of not just his peers, but the school headmaster as well, and one reluctant outcast who helps Otis with the sex clinic.
Where you’ve seen him before: The 24-year-old actor may be more familiar to British audiences, as he is known for his roles on Will, the TNT drama series about William Shakespeare set in the Elizabethan era, or Wolfblood, the BBC supernatural teen drama about werewolves. He’s also scheduled to appear in Changeland, a comedy from Seth Green which stars Macaulay Culkin, Brenda Song, Rachel Bloom, and Breckin Meyer.
Connor Swindells plays Adam, the school bully who becomes the first customer of Otis and Maeve’s sex clinic. Not only is Adam failing his classes, he’s also struggling to achieve the approval of his father, the school’s headmaster.
Where you’ve seen him before: The 22-year-old started out as a boxer before he pivoted to acting. Now, in addition to Sex Education, he has appeared in VS., a rap battle drama that looks a lot like the British version of 8 Mile.
Aimee Lou Wood
Aimee Lou Wood plays the delightfully ditzy Aimee, Adam’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. She may seem flighty and aloof, but if it weren’t for Aimme, Maeve and Otis wouldn’t have had the idea to start the clinic in the first place.
Where you’ve seen her before: To date, Sex Education is Wood’s only listed film or television project. She is, however, dating Swindells in real life.