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Netflix found a winner in Sex Education. The British comedy / drama about teens (and, sometimes, the adults who are trying to teach them) who are attempting to figure out sex, romance, relationships and how those things fit into their lives quickly captivated audiences when Season 1 debuted a year ago, becoming one of the streamer's most watched shows in 2019. But, it turns out that Gillian Anderson, one of Sex Education's stars, wasn't so keen on the show when she first read the script. In fact, she threw it in the trash. Oh, well!
So, seeing as how pretty much everyone who watched Sex Education loved it immediately, what was so wrong with the script for the pilot that Gillian Anderson felt the need to see those pages returned to the Earth so speedily? Here's what she had to say about her initial reaction:
I read a teeny bit of the first episode and threw it in the bin. Initially I felt that it was too on the nose.
I suppose it's not too hard to see where Gillian Anderson was coming from when she read that first bit of the Sex Education script. The series focuses on Otis (Asa Butterfield), a teenager who's having trouble masturbating and, well, mastering relationships with anyone other than his best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), whose mom, Jean (Anderson), just happens to be a very open and sex positive sex and relationship therapist.
Even though Otis clearly has his own issues, it turns out that he's absorbed some of his mom's facility for doling out advice, and at the urging of Eric and bad girl Maeve (Emma Mackey) he begins to help fellow students with their sex and romance problems...for a fee.
It mostly sounds like Gillian Anderson thought that the set up for Sex Education was just too obvious for it to be worth her time. And, it probably didn't help that the first few minutes of the first episode involve two teenagers having sex while one of their parents are at home (and the guy trying, unsuccessfully, to fake an orgasm), Otis awkwardly meeting Jean's latest sexual conquest the morning after and Eric chiding Otis over not having had sex during summer break when everyone else (seemingly) has.
I mean, I loved the first episode of the show and remember well how it led to me binging the first season in a couple of days. But, after laying it all out and thinking about those first few minutes from Gillian Anderson's perspective, even I can admit that it seems like maybe not the best way to get the Sex Education ball rolling. But, it does all come together as a surprisingly sweet and funny (but still kinda naughty) whole that will leave folks looking back on that time in their lives with fondness.
In case you're wondering what changed Gillian Anderson's mind before trash pickup, according to what she told Entertainment Weekly, we have her real life partner, Peter Morgan (creator and writer of The Crown) to thank for that.
Pete essentially took it out the bin and read it and loved it, and said, ‘You’re mad. This will be really good for you to do.’ I read it and I thought it was hilarious...He does keep reminding me that the success of it is all down to him.
Well done, Peter Morgan! And even more well done Gillian Anderson, for taking his advice and agreeing to give us the wonderfully understanding, intelligent and still a bit messed up in her own subtle ways Jean! Sex Education wouldn't be nearly as fun without you.