Words: Thomas Stichbury; Photography: Dean Ryan McDaid
Life imitates art for Sex Education star Sami Outalbali when it comes to being unlucky in the love department, as he relives his own bouts of heartbreak in the Attitude October issue, out now to download and to order globally.
In the second season of Netflix’s taboo-busting, teen trope-tickling comedy drama, Sami’s brooding, mysterious, poetry-writing Rahim strikes up a sweet romance with fan favourite Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa) – only [spoiler alert] to be dumped in favour of Eric’s ex, Adam (Connor Swindells). Two words: sacre bleu!
Sami wears t-shirt by Mihara Yasuhiro at Matches Fashion, trousers by Feng Chen Wang, boots by Dr Martens, twisted chain by Pawnshop, safety pin chain by Martine Ali at MR PORTER for the Attitude October issue (Photography: Dean Ryan McDaid; Stylist: Sacha Dance; Fashion director: Joseph Kocharian)
“I’ve been dumped by someone. I was about to say, who has never? But I know people who have never and that’s good for them [laughs]. I don’t want to make it too heavy, like, I’m remembering bad memories, but yeah, I have,” he shares.
“It’s hard to break up with someone, especially when you love that person, and you don’t want to hurt him or her or they. Honesty is the best way. It hurts in the moment, but it is best for everyone. [You could] let it [the relationship] die by itself, but I don’t think that’s a good solution – I don’t know, I’m giving advice I’m not myself following.”
Does Sami subscribe to the belief that the best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody else? “I’m not going to comment on that!”
Gracing the front cover of the Attitude October issue – his second cover for us, no less – the French actor hints that his on-screen affair may not be over as the bell sounds for the show’s third outing, dropping on the streaming giant on 17 September.
Sami wears hoodie by Balenciaga at Mytheresa, trousers by BOSS, boots by Timberland, signet ring and bracelet by The Great Frog, engraved ring by Pawnshop (Photography: Dean Ryan McDaid)
“It’s going to be interesting, the story goes somewhere you don’t expect it,” he teases. “There is something, but I’m not going to tell you more than that…”
This isn’t Sami’s first queer role – he previously appeared in Philippe Faucon’s Fiertés (2018), a mini-series about three generations of a French family and the rise of the gay rights movement in France – but he is always intrigued by people’s responses.
“I think it’s always funny to see how people, how certain people [in particular] present themselves as open-minded, trying to act ‘cool’, but can’t help but say and push on the fact that you kissed a boy. And you are, like, you’re not that open-minded.
“I’m just kissing someone. It could be a boy. It could be a girl… If I play a gay character, [even] calling a character gay is – for me – already a mistake. I’m just trying to portray a human being, a love story with feelings, and it happens that his love goes for boys.”
Reflecting on the response he’s had from LGBTQ+ viewers, Sami believes many of them feel seen by Rahim: “[They tell] me that they recognise themselves in Rahim. Boys, girls and non-binary people are, like, it’s good to see a character like that, with such confidence, who is able to be proud of himself in front of everyone.”
Sami wears sweater by Prada at Mytheresa, trousers by Prada at Matches Fashion, chain by Thomas Sabo (Photography: Dean Ryan McDaid)
Based in Paris, 22-year-old Sami also praises Sex Education for filling in chasms in our knowledge, as he calls out schools for not teaching youngsters enough about intimacy, our bodies and the importance of consent.
“In season one, with Aimee [Gibbs, played by Aimee Lou Wood] and female masturbation, it is something we just didn’t talk about, except in movies or shows where they are making – not fun of it, but like American Pie. [In Sex Education], there is a real discussion, a talk about that, about the fact it’s OK,” he maintains.
“[Then there’s] the pressure you shouldn’t put on yourself when you’re a boy, of being hard all the time, or cumming, or having an orgasm, stuff like that.”
Sami continues: “Something as evident as consent [as well]. We don’t learn that in school. We don’t learn that for a boy, it is more than OK to ask before kissing a girl. The power of the show is it’s talking about a subject we all have lived, but we didn’t have any answers [to our questions] at the time. We felt alone and now we don’t.”
Read the full interview in the Attitude October issue, out now.