Sex Education is a must-watch show and Aimee Lou Wood is a must-follow rising star in it. The Netflix series focuses on a group of students at Moordale Secondary School trying to figure out how to fit in, grow up and find themselves. One of the most beautiful things about the show is that it features a diverse cast and explores a wide variety of very human challenges with humor, heart and pathos.
Wood’s character, Aimee, begins her Sex Education journey by figuring out who her true friends are in Season 1. Wood is a scene stealer in the role right out the gate, but the work she delivers the following season is on another level. In Season 2, Aimee is sexually assaulted and the way the show explores how one might process such an experience is incredibly layered and powerful. Rather than keep the storyline confined to an episode or two, Sex Education recognizes the fact that such trauma isn’t something one can quickly leave behind. In Season 3, Aimee is still working to understand the incident and its effects on her with Wood continuing to bring that story to life on screen with such sincerity and nuance.
It was such a treat to welcome Wood to Collider Ladies Night in honor of the premiere of Season 3 of Sex Education. Yes, we did focus on her ongoing run in the Netflix series for a good chunk of the conversation, but we also took the time to look back and explore the foundation she gained by studying her craft at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Given the fact that every path in this industry is different, we often discuss the choice to attend acting or film school on Collider Ladies Night. In Wood’s case, she knows it was the right move for her, but understands that it isn’t the right path for everyone. Here’s how she put it
“I’m really glad that I went, to be honest. Less even about my acting, but more just as a person I’m glad that I was in a space for three years that was safe for me to mess up and make mistakes and learn rather than going straight out there. But then again, I also then was so blessed with Sex Education because it was kind of like a second drama school.”
Wood went on to pinpoint a particular quality of drama school that could prove problematic:
“I think the main thing that I would say from drama school, the problem that I have with it is it can make certain people feel – well, there’s lots of schooling systems – it can make certain people feel wrong and certain people feel right. And actually, the best thing about acting is, you’re always gonna be right if you’re being truthful to the character and to yourself. I just think the best actors always reveal a part of themselves through the characters that they’re playing, and it costs them something to play those parts and it should be a vulnerable feeling. That’s how you move people, is when it’s kind of like you’re revealing a part of you to the audience through that character and through that story, and I think you only learn that once you’re out of school because at school it gets too much in your head, that was a good performance or that was a bad performance, and you kind of lose your own center. Kind of like the advice thing we were talking about! And actually, sometimes you need less feedback and you need to figure out the stories you want to tell.”
Even after attending RADA and even after gaining so much “real world” experience, the learning curve continues for Wood. If you’ve seen past episodes of Collider Ladies Night, you know I often ask for something someone was afraid to ask about when they were first starting out. Often the answer is wishing they knew more about the reality of filming a sex scene. As one might expect, there are a lot of very intimate moments in Sex Education, but the team behind the series helped ensure everyone felt safe and supported while doing them by recruiting an intimacy coordinator to have on set.
Here’s what Wood said when asked for something that she learned from the Sex Education intimacy coordinators that she wishes more new actors were aware of:
“I remember going to do the first sex scene and there was something that I was a bit like, ‘Oh, maybe I’m okay with that.’ And I remember being like to [intimacy coordinator] Ita [O’Brien], ‘No, that’s fine.’ And she was like, ‘Aimee, let me just tell you something, no is no and maybe is no. So if you’re going, maybe I’m comfortable, it’s a no. Because what’s gonna happen is, you’re gonna compromise and you’re gonna agree to something and then you’re gonna feel so terrible after. You’re gonna have the worst vulnerability hangover because you’ve gone along with something that you weren’t 100% comfortable with.’ No one was putting pressure on me. It was just me trying to please and be like, ‘Well, maybe I can do that, maybe I can do that.’ And Ita was like, ‘Just remember in all sex scenes and in all intimate stuff, no is no and maybe is no. Only an absolute yes is a yes.’”
Having had such a positive experience working with such material on Sex Education, now Wood often spots the value of it when watching other projects:
“They were so amazing on the Sex Ed set with that stuff. Then our director, the last thing he wanted is for us to feel uncomfortable. Because also, you can see it! When I watch sex scenes now that clearly didn’t have an intimacy coordinator or a supportive director or something, you can see that the people are uncomfortable. You can actually read it in their bodies and their faces and everything, so I think that really just holding onto that and being on a set and thinking, ‘No, I’m deliberating about this and I’m umming and ahing so maybe that is an indication that actually it’s a no and we’ll figure out a different way to do it. You can always figure out a different way to do it.”
Eager to hear more about the lessons Wood’s learned over the years, about her experience winning a BAFTA and where she thinks Aimee’s head is at at the very end of Sex Education Season 3? Be sure to check out her episode of Collider Ladies Night at the top of this article or you can listen to the conversation uncut in podcast form below:
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