Menu

Sex Education addresses intimacy and disability

Isaac on a dancefloor
Isaac on a dancefloor Image credit: bbc.co.uk

Actor George Robinson who plays Isaac in Sex Education has said he relishes playing a bad guy in Netflix’s comedy drama.

In the last season Isaac was seen intercepting and deleting a voicemail from his classmate Otis (Asa Butterfield) after Otis told Maeve (Emma Mackey) he was in love with her.

Robinson, who is in a wheelchair, told the BBC playing an evil disabled character who has self-confidence is extremely rewarding.

"The feedback I've got from within the disability community is that it's really refreshing to see someone who is so comfortable within themselves and not questioning their existence," he explained.

Robinson became a quadriplegic after a serious rugby accident broke his spinal cord at the age of 17.

Isaac was supposed to be an amputee, but producers were so impressed by George’s acting skills they rewrote the character and gave him the part.

Writers worked closely with Robinson to ensure he was included in the storyboard process and used his personal experiences to build the role.

For instance, one scene saw Isaac frustrated at a house party with Maeve because his potential fun was blocked by a flight of stairs.

Determined not to be beaten Isaac asks his mates to carry him down the stairs in his wheelchair.

"It's the fact that Isaac goes, 'No, I'm going to this party, you're going to carry me down, I don't care'… it's such a lovely thing to see on screen - someone who's unapologetically themselves,” Robinson expressed.

He added people like Isaac "whether people accept that or not is irrelevant to them because they're going to live their life and they're totally valid in doing so”.

Championing the show for breaking taboos around disability Robinson said: "Often people don't necessarily know what to say just because they haven't got that experience. But if they see it on screen that changes. More and more these days we learn about society from TV and media.

"I hope that through Isaac, people see how to treat someone with disability as if they were treating anyone else, regardless of it."

As Isaac can be ruthless and sometimes a nasty piece of work Robinson believes "it allows other conversations to be opened up" around topics which are rarely discussed about people with disabilities.

The storyline which saw Isaac deleting Otis’ voicemail sparked conversations on social media, he was even turned into a meme being pushed down stairs in his wheelchair or being set on fire.

On the subject of trolling, Robinson, who has also received threats on Twitter and Instagram, said:  "the problem is lot of discussions online about Isaac are often only communicated through memes. This is inherently problematic because it's a very superficial, visual medium that requires us to add the context".

"I like to assume that the reason most people hate Isaac is not because of his wheelchair, but because he's not necessarily likeable. However, the only way memes can communicate this is presented physically, through the wheelchair."

He added: "It doesn't make it right at all. It shows there's still a long way to go in terms of how these issues are presented and how people talk about disability. It's not on."

In season three of Sex Education Isaac forms a closer relationship with Maeve which includes an intimate scene between the two which Robinson describes as an "important cultural moment” which normalises sex and disability.

"I'm really happy where we got with it," Robinson told the BBC. "What makes that scene so beautifully crafted is the way it speaks to how sex isn't always about the physical stuff but the intimate act of opening yourself up to one another. That's really what sex is.

"I just show that disabled people are everything: We're fathers, we're sons, we go through economic problems, we have problems with relationships, we have all of these things. And yes, we are intimate sexual beings just like everyone else."

Sex Education series three is available now on Netflix.