In “Sex Education” Season 3, Chinenye Ezeudu does it like an animal.
Ezeudu first appeared in the show last season as Viv Odusanya, the overbearingly smart quiz team student who tutors (and lightly flirts with) cool-guy Jackson Marchetti (Kedar Williams-Stirling). She starts off as an archetype of a nerdy, career-focused schoolgirl, then becomes more three-dimensional as the show exposes her friendships and her heart.
Season 3 continued that work. Viv begins the season obsessed to the point of obnoxiousness with their school’s new head teacher, girlboss-type Hope Haddon (Jemima Kirke). She ends up hurting Jackson in the process of following in Hope’s footsteps, taking over his position as head student and disregarding his fight for freedom of expression on campus. She also finally joins other “Sex Education” characters in having her sexuality explored: Episode 7 opens with Viv sexting a new beau while masturbating in a public bathroom stall. Here’s a girl who’s been talking about college applications all semester, and now she’s using phrases like “nipple play.”
All of Viv’s development comes to a head when she realizes Hope only cares about her because having a Black girl as head student would “look good” to prospective families. She realizes the error of her ways, secretly records Hope’s words, then orchestrates a public reckoning in front of students, parents, teachers and the media — complete with song, dance and genitalia costumes.
Here, Ezeudu talks with Variety about the Shakespearean nature of her character and what she hopes for Viv’s future.
Tell me how “Sex Education” first came into your life.
I heard that they were casting the character Viv through the grapevine. I didn’t have an agent at this point, so I was like, “Oh, no, how am I gonna get an audition?” But I reached out to someone at Curtis Brown, an agent. And I just mentioned at the end of the meeting, “I heard they’re casting for ‘Sex Ed.’ Could you get me an audition?” And he was like, “Oh, yeah, I can!” I had to audition the next day. I was really eager to do it, because I’d watched Season 1 and I loved it. I loved “Sex Ed’s” unflinching take on sex ed.
I did four rounds, and I finally ended up getting the role. There’s a video on my Instagram, showing my agent coming to my house and telling me that, “I won it! I got the role!”
Do you relate much to Viv? How does she fit into your life?
We’re not that alike. Viv is very academic and very straight-laced. But where we come together is, we’re both very driven. We know what we want. I describe Viv as like Lady Macbeth, but in the best possible ways. She’s very, very smart. Lady Macbeth is ambitious, she’s strong, she has plans and she knows how to execute them. She’s the brains behind all the plans. And you can see that in Jackson and Viv’s relationship. She is Lady Macbeth and Jackson is Macbeth. But they don’t kill anyone!
Viv is completely obsessed with Hope until she realizes she’s not being genuine. What was your approach to crafting the character in a way that still feels likable even when she’s sucking up to Hope?
Viv sees so much of herself in Hope during the beginning. Hope is what she wants to be — this strong woman who’s doing it for herself. She idolizes this woman. And then when Viv hears that she’s just a diversity hire, in a sense, it’s so devastating. But Viv knows what to do — she records her, and that’s her downfall, really. After she learns that, she completely shuts down and tries to get her feet on the ground. She [stops being] the suck up. She becomes the hero of the story.
Tell me about the process of shooting Hope’s big comeuppance.
Kedar directed that whole sequence. I was in my penis costume — which sounds ridiculous — and he was in his vagina costume. I remember him playing some jazz music — some ‘70s kind of vibes — so we could all get into the groove and were able to express ourselves through dance. It was very odd! Odd day, but a really cool day because everyone was [on set], which is very rare.
A lot of fans thought Viv and Jackson might end up getting together as a couple this season, but she ends up with a new love interest instead. What did you make of that? Was there anything in particular you wanted for the character?
I always think that Jackson and Viv are endgame. I’m pushing for them to get together. Because they just suit each other! But Viv has a new love interest in her life, and we’ll see where that goes. I think they’re well-suited for the time being. Who knows in other seasons?
What was it like finally exploring Viv’s sexuality in Season 3? Did it take time to get comfortable, or were you just ready to go?
I was ready to go. I was always wanting to explore Viv’s sexuality. I think, deep down, everyone’s a horny teenager. So it was fun to see her come… out. Come out and do this — that sounded really weird. I didn’t mean that.
But her just being out there, and really owning her sexuality. In a toilet, no less. That’s a common theme for her, for some reason. She’s always in a toilet! We had an intimacy coordinator who helped me. I was just rubbing my leg and pretending to be doing this thing. And sometimes it’s awkward, but luckily, our intimacy coordinator was great. I pictured an animal and how an animal would… do it.