Sex Education debuted on the streaming service a year ago, and quickly became a huge hit – largely through word-of-mouth – ending the year on the news that it was among the platform’s most-streamed shows of the year, pulling in more viewers than Netflix staples like Orange Is The New Black, Black Mirror and Queer Eye.
For many of the show’s cast, the popularity of Sex Education – both here in the UK and globally – came as something of a shock, as they revealed when we caught up with them ahead of the new series’ debut.
“So many amazing shows just kind of fall off the radar, or don’t quite land, [even though] they’re brilliant,” said Tanya Reynolds, who returns as Lily in series two of Sex Education. “It’s just the experience you have... you work on things that you think you are amazing, and then they don’t land or not a lot of people watch them. And this did land.”
Connor Swindells, who plays Adam, revealed: “People were saying to us [that it was going to be big], but I always like to say ‘nah, it’s not going to happen. No one’s going to watch it’. And then... everyone watched it.”
Tanya recalled that the show became successful rather “suddenly”, which is something that all of the cast have said came as something of a shock.
“I wasn’t working when the show came out, I was just unemployed and sitting round in my house doing very little,” she explained. “And just overnight, all of a sudden, had 20,000 more Instagram followers, or whatever. That was how you realised the reach of the show. And it’s mad.”
When asked how the popularity of Sex Education changed her life, Emma Mackey – who plays Maeve – revealed: “There’ve been a few [ways], I can’t think of, like, a big moment, but I think it’s just the positive feedback that we’ve had…
“And then yeah, the whole being recognised on the street thing is weird. But, you know, it’s lovely. It’s a new thing, a new way of life to adapt to.”
Connor agreed that “the way in which people would stare at you” has been something he’s grown to accept.
“And you would think that people would want to fight you!” he joked. “There were a couple of times… I’ve been sat on the train thinking ‘I’m going to have to run! This guy’s about to fuck me up’... and some guy’s gone ‘you’re the guy from Sex Education’ and I’ve gone ‘oh yeah’.”
Meanwhile, for Ncuti Gatwa – who Sex Education fans will know as Eric – there was one stand-out moment when he knew the show had made it.
“I just want to say… there was one time, Kelly Rowland put us on her Instagram story,” he excitedly recalled. “That was just amazing.
“But there’s been loads of just amazing feedback about season one, we’ve spoken a lot about how cross-generational the reach was as well, we’ve got older people coming up to us and telling us how much they’ve enjoyed the show. And that’s cool, it’s really cool.”
Sex Education season two is now streaming on Netflix. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.