Words: Thomas Stichbury; Photography: Joseph Sinclair
Sex Education favourite Ncuti Gatwa opens up about the messages he receives from LGBTQ+ fans and how the show is changing lives in the Attitude October issue, out now to download and to order globally.
Shooting to fame as the unapologetically queer, trombone-playing (putting it politely) Eric Effiong in Netflix’s smash-hit, Ncuti says the trail-blazing series has had a huge impact on members of the community who are unable to be their true, authentic selves.
“We talk about the silliness and the fun of the show… [but] then you get a message from somebody in Saudi Arabia or Nigeria, somewhere where being gay is illegal or there is a death penalty or it’s very homophobic, and you think, f***ing hell, this show is important because it really is educational,” he explains.
“There was one message that I got from somebody in the Middle East… he was like, ‘Every time I watched Sex Education, I escaped to my dreams for 40 minutes,’ and I was like, wow, you escaped to you dreams? This is a dream to you? We’re having so much fun here doing this thing, but do you know what I mean, this guy has to escape to a place of acceptance through a screen.”
Ncuti adds: “The messages of the show really matter, inclusion really matters, and thorough representation really matters.”
The 28-year-old actor teases that “it’s not going to be plain sailing” for Eric and his former bully-turned-boyfriend Adam (played by Connor Swindells) in the upcoming third season, out 17 September.
“They have such history with one another,” he starts. “It feels like this season is the first time that they are on equal footing – not social status, but certainly the status within their relationship… they are fully in this thing now, but how do they adapt to that?”
Photography: Joseph Sinclair
He continues: “Eric’s very determined to live his most unapologetic life, and this season is the most determined he’s been. It’s quite interesting because it lends itself to decisions that aren’t always the right ones… He [also] explores his heritage and culture and how that incorporates into his journey in terms of his sexuality and accepting that.”
Given the show’s name, it would be rude not to ask Ncuti – who has been nominated twice for best male comedy performance at the Bafta TV awards – what it is like filming Sex Education's more intimate scenes.
“I feel scared to say this answer, but I’m just going to say it… I’ve enjoyed them all,” he laughs. “We are all mates and we’re comfortable with and trust each other. Netflix have always been very thorough in taking care of us. Because we have that system in place that looks after our wellbeing, when you are in that space, you’re able to enjoy it… you’re able to laugh because everyone knows what they are doing.
“I find it – it’s the most primal way to connect to your character, learning how they get down: ah, Eric does it like that!”
Read the full interview in the Attitude October issue, out now.