Words: Tim Heap
Sex Education's Ncuti Gatwa says it’s "privilege" to be part of a series "that teenagers can relate to and learn from".
The Scottish-Rwandan actor, 27, plays out-and-proud Eric in the Netflix ratings juggernaut, which has garnered even more acclaim since the release of its second season earlier this month.
Appearing alongside his Sex Education co-stars and series creator Laurie Nunn in the Attitude Body Issue - out now to download and to order globally - Ncuti says he sees his own existence reflected in Eric’s strength.
“I think he showcases so much inner strength because of all the obstacles that he is faced with,” he explains.
The cast of Netflix's Sex Education and series creator Laurie Nunn appear in the Attitude Body Issue, out now
“Obviously being black, having grown up in Scotland, I relate to that. He’s strong in a way I’ve not seen before.”
Sex Education has been praised for opening up refreshing and honest conversations about sex, and for its diversity of characters, across spectrums including race, economic background, religion and sexuality and gender identity – something Ncuti is proud to be a part of.
“Proper representation really does matter because as a society, we need to learn how to interact within that,” he says.
Ncuti Gatwa, who plays Eric in 'Sex Education'
“It’s so important to re-educate people. We’re now in an age where people are demanding to take up space – and rightly so. In Sex Education, we see people from all walks of like just existing as normal.”
Unlike many teenage gay characters we seen on TV, Eric isn’t struggling to accept his sexuality.
Instead, he’s introduced in season one as a proud gay, black man who’s full of life and has an infectious sense of humour – despite being the subject of daily abuse from school bully Adam (Connor Swindells).
Connor Swindells, who plays Adam in 'Sex Education'
At the end of the first season, their relationship took a surprise turn when a joint detention led to a sexually charged liaison between the two.
In the new season, Eric finds himself faced with a dilemma as he has to choose between bully-turned-friend Adam, and handsome and keen French exchange student Rahim (played by Attitude Body Issue cover star Sami Outalbali).
"He’s not the same Eric who was in season one", Ncuti explains.
"So I was like: ‘What does he think of Adam, where does he stand with him?’
“Eric is one of the only ones who can see Adam for what he is, he’s always been able to kind of see through Adam’s walls a little bit.”