Interview: Aimee Lou Wood, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Connor Swindells talk Sex Education, Netflix and becoming Instagram stars
Ivan Radford | On 26, Jan 2019
With Sex Education on course to be watched by more than 40 million accounts in its first month, Netflix’s coming-of-age comedy is already one of the most talked-about TV shows of 2019 (read our review here). That’s not just because of its frank, honest and fresh approach to its subject matter, but it’s infectiously charming cast, led by Asa Butterfield as teenager Otis, and Gillian Anderson as his mum, a sex therapist whose influence upon her son leads him to become a sex guru offering advice in the school playground.
Butterfield’s joined by a remarkable cast of young Brits as his schoolmates, including best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), romantic interest Maeve (Emma Mackey) and eccentric musician Lily (Tanya Reynolds), but also swimming champ Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling), smarter-than-you-think Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) and not-as-mean-as-you-think bully Adam (Connor Swindells), the intimidating son of the headmaster.
With their profiles rocketing every time another user clicks “Play”, we sat down with Kedar, Aimee and Connor to talk about turning into Instagram stars, coming-of-age favourites and what’s on their Netflix watchlists.
First up, how did you each get involved with the show?
Kedar: I got sent through the audition pieces and met up with Lauren Evans the fantastic casting director, and then did the chemistry with Emma [Mackey], and met Ben Taylor [director], met Jamie [Campbell – EP], then I met Laurie [Nunn – the show’s creator] through this whole process. And then I got the call to say “Do you want to do this role?” and I was like “Yesss pleeeease!”
Connor: Lauren called me in initially for a read through a couple of months before everyone went up for it, because I’ve known her for a long time now, a couple of years, and she passed my stuff on to the team, who had me in for a meeting or two and talked about how it was going to look. And then I met up with Ben Taylor, the director of the first block, we had a chat and a read through the material, and I was sent a treatment and so forth. By the time that had all happened, I was firmly engaged and fully ready to come aboad, which they so generously offered me to do.
Aimee: I got auditioned for Lily through my agent, which I got through drama school. I went in for Lily three times. Then I got call saying “We love you! But can you come in for… Amy?” And basically, transfer that energy into being Amy. And I went in once for Amy and everyone was there and that just seemed to fit. It was great as well, because my exposure to the thing was through Lily’s side, and that’s such an amazing character, so I was completely on board from the get-go.
The show has this unique British/US, not-quite-1980s vibe. Did you have any input into that, through dialogue or costumes? Kedar, you’ve got this very American sports jacket…
Kedar: That was all Rosie [Stoward], the costume designer. The way that I wore it was my style, but in terms of the colours and everything… you know what? The chinos were their idea too. There were going to be these Reeboks that I wore… We didn’t initially have any idea it was going to look like it did until we walked in and saw the costumes ourselves. The only indication of it being quite 80s and stuff was the music, and that was written in the script, but I didn’t get anything personally prior to the fittings.
Connor: Adam’s iconic lather jacket I got to pick out from a plethora of material and that definitely felt like the most brutish one that he would wear! The sheep wool interior, this hard outside, soft interior thing…
Kedar: Look at that, look at that…
Aimee: Oh! Cleverrr!
Connor: You see what I did there?
Aimee: And the flares. We were very determined to get my flares in the show! Me, Rosie and Ben, because as soon as I put on the double denim ensemble, I was Aimee Gibbs. It was very helpful, like the garments definitely helped a lot getting into character – it was just so well thought out! And the make-up and the hair design. Just the whole look helps so much.
Kedar: For Jackson, like, wearing the contacts and everything like that helped me massively to not be me.
Were there favourite coming-of-age comedies that you drew on for inspiration?
Aimee: Pretty in Pink and all the John Hughes movies are my faves!
A lot of stars in Netflix shows have become Insta-famous following the release of their show or film. Aimee, you’re on 124.2k, Kedar you have 105.4k, Connor 157.6k. Have you seen those follower counts go up?
Aimee: Oh my god, yes!
Kedar: We were having a chat with the Netflix team yesterday, just about how to navigate that whole thing. It’s like a thing that is, like, real. It’s great, so grateful for it, it’s just accessibility isn’t it, really?
Aimee: Kedar had loads before he even did the show! I had about 2,000 before it came out, genuinely. And my average ‘like’ was about 100 on my photos, and now it’s, like, 11,000!
Is that weird?
Aimee: It was weird when you were watching the numbers climb when you were watching the show. And all these messages coming in. But now I’m trying to detach myself from that, because it is just numbers on a screen, isn’t it?
And, of course, with Netflix, it’s going to be from everyone, not just the UK
Aimee: All over! Brazil, we love you! [Laughs]
Connor, you have perhaps the most memorable moment in the school canteen. Was that (ahem) daunting at all?
Connor: I don’t think it was daunting, I was more worried about learning all my lines, to be honest! It was probably the most lines I had to learn in the whole show! But there was a big conversation before that happened and there was a whole process behind it, obviously, so any fear was stripped away quite quickly, so it was a creative space for me… But Aimee kept making me laugh while we were doing it!
Aimee: He kept jumping off the table and starting again – it was very amusing!
Are there any favourite moments or most embarrassing bits from the show?
Aimee: It was really fun in the first week, which was the party, when we are all together. And then we all got kinda split up into twos or three or whatever, so whenever we were all back together, it was really fun. It was actually less of the sex stuff, the sex stuff wasn’t embarrassing, it was actually really fun, because everyone was really supportive and lovely, but embarrassing stuff for me was it was my first TV job, so I didn’t know what stuff meant! So learning about cameras and stuff, just a few fumbles I had, generally, but apart from that, it was just so fun.
Do you guys stream much yourselves on Netflix or elsewhere? And what’s on your watchlist right now?
Kedar: RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Aimee: Yeah, RuPaul is a big thing. Yeah, watch a lotta of Netflix. A lot.
Kedar: The last thing was Roma, that was the last thing I watched. Yeah. They’re so great. Netflix are great. We love Netflix.
Connor: Superbad, we were watching as well.
Aimee: Oh, yes! It’s on Netflix and I’ve never seen it before and it’s so good!
Sex Education: Season 1 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.