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T he clear-eyed kid, wise beyond their years, is an evergreen trope of teen TV. That the wisdom they dole out should be earnest sex advice, however, is decidedly less familiar. An adolescent sex therapist? What started out as a joke that kept on giving has spun out into a high-school universe all its own, replete with a stellar cast and a web of compelling coming-of-age stories. Asa Butterfield plays the year-old sage, Otis.
One day he and pink-haired Maeve Emma Mackey, all black eyeliner and up-yours attitude chance upon Adam Connor Swindells , the school bully, having a Viagra-induced nightmare in a disused toilet block. Maeve sees a business opportunity. Those woes — the sex story of the week — were one of the most fun parts about writing the show, says Nunn. A sex educator was in the room too, to ensure they kept to the sex-positive, body-positive message Nunn wanted at the core of the show.
One imagines, just as the writers of the legal drama The Good Wife probably had a list of the many ways you might get into trouble, a list here of the many ways you might have trouble getting it on. But, says Nunn, it was never about ticking boxes: the sex issues had to have narrative integrity. They heard her talking on Radio 2 about the Intimacy on Set guidelines she has developed and taught in British drama schools since Her guidelines draw on those that exist for combat scenes: fight directors are given time, space and a clear process for creating a fight, physical acting that clearly involves risk.
Given the difficulties ones that MeToo has made only too evident involved in creating moments of sexual expression, she set about defining what best practice should look like. Actors are frequently left to their own devices, and an actor without a director moves a simulated sex scene out of the professional realm and into the personal — which makes them vulnerable.
The reason for this deliberate cultural hybridity is twofold. First, says Nunn, the heightened premise needed a world elevated to match it. Here, however, Nunn has dug deeper to look for new perspectives. Moreover, their friendship, which Nunn sees as a love story between two friends, puts mutual respect and vulnerability between boys front and centre in a way that is equally rare.