Growing up in Bramhall, “a small village in the North of England where you’d bump into six people on your way to Tesco’s”, she couldn’t wait to move to London and enjoy some anonymity. However, since her move, Aimee has managed to turn the whole of London into her very own Bramhall, sticking out like a sore thumb when walking to the shops owing to her role in the outrageously popular Netflix series Sex Education. At least this way, her repute is on her own terms, attracting congratulatory remarks rather than: “excuse me, isn’t your Dad the guy that got completely rat-arsed and kicked out of the pub?” With Sex Education amassing over 40 million views only weeks after airing, its stars became household names overnight. This newfound fame was a little more confusing for Aimee, who shares her name with her character on the show. “When someone calls my name, I always imagine they know me!” she says. Furthermore, due to Aimee’s distinctive accent and teeth she can’t blend into a crowd as easily as the rest of the cast. “It’s much harder for me to be anonymous”, she explains. She’s tried to battle this by keeping her mouth shut when she’s walking around, although complains that it’s no easy feat: “It genuinely takes a lot of effort. I have to say, my mouth fights to be open”. The release of season two exacerbated this problem as the character of Aimee tones down her glam aesthetic in response to suffering trauma. Aimee explains: “I get recognised a lot more now because that’s more similar to how I look day-to-day, a low pony and not a lot of makeup.” However, while most of her fan interactions are positive, Aimee reveals that the experience can often be overwhelming.
AIMEE LOU WOOD
Sex Education’s breakout star chats about the complexities of sharing a name with her character and becoming a feminist icon.
She describes a recent visit to the cinema with her brothers which was characterised by whispers and pointing. “It’s probably nothing”, she says “but it’s a lot, the feeling of being observed”. We also discuss another reason that fans might not be able to separate the real Aimee from her character: the way in which people are absorbing the show. “I really believe that because you spend an intense eight hours with these characters, in your safe space, like your bedroom, you really feel as though you’re getting to know them”. This may be truer for Sex Education than other binge-worthy programmes, due to its sensitive content: “They’re showing all their intimate parts of their life to you, or at least you feel like they are, and they’re a couple of centimetres away on your laptop screen,” she explains. However, Aimee herself has also fallen prey to this Netflix mirage: “I watch hours of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I truly believe that I know those drag queens. I ran into Divina De Campo the other day and I said, ‘Hi, how are you?’, as if we’d seen each other yesterday, and she was probably thinking, ‘Who the fuck are you?’” Despite not always relishing the inseparability of the character of Aimee and the real Aimee, she does see a lot of herself in the Moordale student. “Some of the things she says, I’ve said in real life to my friends.” She explains that “she’s become me now, we’re kind of a merge, the two of us”. Despite this convergence, when Aimee first auditioned for the show she read for the part of Lily. She starts to say that she’s also quite like Lily but stops. “You know what, I wish I had Lily in me, but I don’t. I don’t have that stoic nature; I mean she doesn’t give a fuck, does she?” She goes on to prove exactly why Sex Education has been such a massive success: the relatability of the characters. “I think I’ve probably got a bit of Maeve, all the damage”, she jokes. “I’m a little bit Otis as well, like the awkwardness. I mean, when I’m on top form, after 12 hours sleep and lots of coffee, I’d like to think I was Eric.”
Apart from recognising aspects of herself in the characters, playing Aimee has also taught the actress a lot about herself. Specifically, after season two, in which Aimee’s character is sexually assaulted on a public bus, an ordeal which was taken from writer Laurie Nun’s own experience. After filming Aimee describes thinking, “Oh my God, there’s been so many times that I’ve just trivialised awful things that have happened to me. Conveying Aimee’s delayed grief and shock made me learn that I’ve definitely done that a lot in my life.” Aimee also relates this normalisation to her upbringing. “I love my Dad, he’s worked on himself so much, and this is something that he’s so ashamed of, but when I was growing up, he did exhibit some misogynist views and behaviours. I think it’s then hard as a daughter of somebody like that to recognise if a man is behaving inappropriately. If you’ve grown up in that kind of environment, it’s hard to know that kind of behaviour is wrong.” Aimee’s not the only one to resonate with this part of her storyline; since season 2 aired she has been inundated with messages from women who have been through similar ordeals. She recalls being aware that the second season came out at 8.30am, and if people had woken up especially for the release, “like it was Christmas” she says, and binged it, that by 11am they’d be on the episode where Aimee’s assault occurs. At 11am her message requests had already started piling up. “It made me realise how important it was as a storyline, it was as if people were waiting for it.” This depiction was especially powerful as while audiences are relatively used to seeing violent sexual crimes presented on screen, Sex Education portrayed a subtler felony, one which is experienced by many women and viewed by some as commonplace, and therefore, unimportant.
“You don’t have to pretend like everything’s okay because that’s the way of the world. If we carry on saying it is, then it will be,” Aimee asserts. Other conventions around portraying sexual assault were also challenged as Aimee’s attacker was a friendly, handsome man riding a busy public bus. As Aimee says, predators come in all guises: “It can even be your boyfriend, it doesn’t have to look like someone who’s climbed out of a cave”. It’s these nuances and themes that make Sex Education so unique. Despite it’s John Hughes vibe and 80’s styling, Sex Education couldn’t have really been made at any other time. As we move on to discuss her other more recent roles, it seems that the character of Aimee has even pervaded the actresses’ time on stage, Aimee having recently taken on the role of Sonya in Chekov’s play Uncle Vanya which is currently running in the West End. “I actually found it quite hard at first, because I’ve been playing Aimee for so long, I felt like in rehearsals I was reading the lines as Aimee. I had to tell myself ‘this is a brand new character. Shrug her off’”. However, the actress has battled this by rooting her characterisation in Sonya’s experience, focusing on the tools at Sonya’s disposal when dealing with unrequited love in the middle of the Russian countryside: “It’s not like Moordale, where when the worst happens, you can go and see Maeve or whatever”. Of the experience in general, Aimee explains that it’s been “enriching but daunting”. As her biggest role to date, she felt somewhat unprepared by her training at RADA, stating: “I was always given the small parts that came on, had a couple of funny scenes and then left.” She goes on: “So learning how to do that in front of a West End audience was definitely a baptism of fire.” She describes thinking, “Jesus Christ, I’m probably fucking up in front of hundreds of people every night who are all here to watch Toby Jones.” However, ultimately, it’s Aimee’s inexperience that has won over the crowds. She says that a lot of her feedback includes people saying they felt really moved by her naturalistic performance. “I’m not really a technical actor, I just imagine that I am Sonya and go for it. Whatever happens, happens.” Aimee puts every ounce of herself into her roles, and it’s to this quality that we can largely attribute her success. (Excluding her job as an Uber Eats driver, which she accidentally applied for when trying to order food pissed at four in the morning.) It’s her distinctive presence, whether becoming a feminist icon or wowing audiences on a West End stage, which proves, whatever her intentions, Aimee Lou Wood was born to be famous.