It’s an unusually sunny lunchtime in Hackney, and Sami Outalbali is currently haggling with a stylist for a deconstructed Louis Vuitton blazer, not that I blame him. “We can trade if you want?” Two weeks from now, the second season of Netflix’s taboo-twisting teen drama Sex Education will be hitting our screens, ready to captivate a nation of frantic binge-watchers all over again and likely make Outalbali a national treasure in the process. The French actor had spent the previous night at a premiere of the new series in east London, later hitting up debaucherous club The Box, explaining a lot about his breakfast of not-quite-champions: we’ve got orange juice, Marlboro Reds, iced tea, and a jumbo packet of McVitie’s digestives — a gripping portrait of a star on the rise. Outalbali plays the admittedly captivating Rahim, a new student at Moordale High whose love of leather jackets and literature seems to run in tandem with each other. Adopting the mysterious cool of Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club, albeit cuter and queerer, Outalbali manages to turn the heads of the entire school. Unfortunately for them, he only has eyes for the effervescent best friend of protagonist ‘Sex Kid’ Otis, Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa). “I had the possibility of creating my own backstory,” says Outalbali, explaining what drew him to the role. “It gave me a lot of freedom. I just loved the character, but also the mystery that surrounds him.” Although details of his past remain murky throughout, Rahim falls fast and hard for Eric, and as the season progresses his mysterious demeanour slowly begins to unravel, opening up about religious persecution, relenting on his hatred of musicals and even offering an in-depth lesson on douching, with drawings!
Meet the newcomer turning heads in Netflix’s Sex Education.
Taking him to task on the politics of the show’s does-what-it-says-on-the-tin tackling of sexual taboo, Outalbali is more than proud about being involved. “It is important for me to be in that kind of show which speaks freely on a subject we don’t want to talk about normally,” he emphasises. “We don’t talk about sex, which is a problem for me. So I was really happy to be a part of that, and make the dialogue freer and easier.” And that it certainly does — though you’d be fooled for thinking his expertise in the complexities of gay life in comparison to Otis translates to real life; Outalbali says the show even taught him a few things he didn’t know. What is clear as day for the actor however, is that he sees himself in Rahim’s passion and the way he falls in love, insisting: “He’s such a nice guy. It doesn’t show it at first, but he is.” The season reaches its climax with Eric having to choose between boyfriend Rahim and his former bully-turned-love interest — a decision I would have made differently in a millisecond after chatting with Outalbali, no offence Eric. If his cryptic last words in the show are anything to go by, we definitely haven’t seen the last of him yet.