Sex Education’s Emma Mackey On Female Pleasure, Consent Classes And The Joy Of Working With Gillian Anderson

'She just completely blew me away'

Sex Education Emma Mackey

by Harriet Kean |

Emma Mackey plays the feisty, pink-haired anti-hero in Netflix’s Sex Education. At the launch of Cartier’s New Bond Street store last night, the Franco-British actress spoke to Grazia about what she’s learnt from her character and the importance of sexual liberation.

So you’re playing this kickass girl, who’s sexually active, unapologetic and doesn’t give a shit… did that draw you to the character? Do you think it’s important to have shows from a female perspective that are breaking down sexual taboos?

100 percent. I think it’s common sense as well. I feel like the world needs this kind of show now. It’s long overdue. And I love the fact that it’s written by women and you’ve got these incredible strong, female characters at the helm. You’ve got Jean, (Gillian Anderson) you’ve got Maeve, you’ve got Lily. Every female character can have a story of their own and you wouldn’t be bored. They’re not satellites around male characters, which I absolutely love. It’s the best. They’re owning their own narrative and doing their own thing.

Do you think its important for women to have that sexual liberation?

So important. What we’re doing is that we’re exploring different ages; the teenage generation, the generation of adults, parents, Jean’s generation. And exploring the issues we have with vulnerability, connection, with finding people. We can really be ourselves with. And in terms of female pleasure and being confident with that. And knowing what we want is so empowering to know that Maeve has wants she wants, Amy is finding what she wants, it’s empowering to know that Lily thinks she knows what she wants but actually maybe she doesn’t and she’s still trying to figure it out. So we can all recognise ourselves in that. Whatever age. It’s intergenerational. It’s empowering.

And wasn’t Gillian Anderson amazing…

Gillian Anderson – she completely blew me away. Watching the episodes back and just seeing her nuanced storyline, her behaviour with Yakob and her son Otis. She completely blew me away which isn’t a surprise as she’s phenomenal. It’s such a privilege to be in a show with her. That calibre of actor.

And the sex scenes… were they really awkward?

We had an intimacy workshop before the filming started. So we had a day of essentially just talking about our experience or lack of thereof in terms of intimacy scenes on screen or on stage. And we spoke to the directors and the producers. So from very early on it was really comfortable and Kedar and I (the guy who plays Jackson) had a physical consent process. It was like a dance essentially and we timed it. We spoke about it, drew it out, practiced it like a dance. And when we actually got down to it, it wasn’t awkward at all. But hopefully it looks realistic. We rehearsed the movements like lines. Like when you rehearse lines so much they become natural. Same with movement, same with the stunt.

Have your parents watched it?

Yes they have. And they loved it. And so did my grandparents. They’ve all said, the older generation, that they wished the show had existed when they were younger. Education for the nation!

And what have you learnt from Maeve – your character?

Everything.

Has she made you a new woman!?

She has! I’m talking about clit and vaginas all the time now! Because of the show! I’m like yeah female pleasure! It’s just amazing. Maeve is unapologetically herself and she gets bullied and she gets treated like shit. And she gets slut shamed. Life does not deal her the best cards. But she still holds her head up high; she still comes to school everyday. She still studies really hard and still manages to break down her defence mechanisms and make friends, which I love. She’s got all these amazing qualities that make you want to be friends with her

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