‘Sex Education’ Gets More Inclusive in Its Intimacy

Kelly Gordon, a trainer at Enhance the UK, a charity run by disabled people, and Chris Yeates, an outreach and support coordinator at Back Up Trust, a charity that supports people affected by spinal cord injury, consulted on Isaac’s story line. The scene works because it’s not about the fact that Isaac uses a wheelchair. It’s a story about two awkward teenagers, an expression of affection and a burned lasagna.

David Thackeray, an intimacy coordinator, worked on all eight episodes of Season 3, including this scene with Isaac and Maeve. Thackeray choreographs each take as if it were a dance sequence or a fight scene, mapping out physical boundaries with each actor beforehand.

“We’re all sitting together, discussing the scene; we mark out where we’re happy to be touched,” Thackeray said. “Even to sit on George’s lap was like, ‘Are you happy with that?’ You keep that communication going.”

Coordinators and consultants checked in constantly on the cast’s comfort levels. Jodie Mitchell, a consultant who advises productions about how to depict nonbinary characters and themes (and who also uses they/them pronouns), was initially brought on only to work on the script with the writers. Then one of the show’s directors, Runyararo Mapfumo, called, wanting to double check the details of scenes featuring nonbinary characters.

“And then she really wanted me to come on set, which I think is indicative of how much this program really wants to get things right,” Mitchell said in an interview. “It’s not just about posturing for them or ticking the box of like, ‘Oh, we’ve checked it’s OK with someone.’ They really want to follow through to the highest level they can.”

Mitchell worked on set for three days, focusing on nonbinary story lines, mostly consulting on those chest binding scenes involving Layla and Cal. Holdaway, who plays Layla, had the option of having an intimacy coordinator present for every scene.

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