The Way We Get By: Sex Education’s Aimee Lou Wood Has Been Cooking and Writing a TV Show

The acclaimed English actress shares what she's been up to, during lockdown and beyond, since the pandemic hit.

As humans, we adapt so quickly to different ways of living. I’ve definitely felt quite claustrophobic and caged at certain points during the pandemic, but I also figured out that I don’t really need to have so much in life. I’ve been so grateful when I’ve seen my friends, and our chats have been so much more authentic and profound. The conversations I’ve been having since lockdown have been so important, and I think a lot of the reason for that is because we haven’t had distractions, we’ve actually had to sit with a lot of truths and a lot of reality about our world, and it’s caused tectonic shifts. I think everyone is a lot more grateful for the little things that we used to take for granted before lockdown, and I really hope that gratitude continues.

I’ve had some wonderful conversations with my parents and my grandparents about subjects I would never usually broach. I started doing my family tree, because I wanted to understand myself more, and that opened up conversations with my Nana. Our relationship has always been kind of jokey, because I’m always making her laugh and she makes me laugh, but recently we’ve had amazing chats, about what it was like for her when she was younger living in Dublin, about growing up Catholic, and all about her incredible life story. I think people have been encouraged to talk a lot more freely and openly about important stuff. I’ve learned a lot about myself, but I’ve also learned a lot about my loved ones, so it has been it has been revolutionary.

I’ve always been an anxious person. When Sex Education came out, things changed very quickly – and in a lot of ways, my life has improved so much and been amazing – but I never gave myself any processing time. Underneath that change was a lot of anxiety, a lot of feeling very exposed and observed, and I didn’t allow myself to fully work through that. I just kept going, and swept it under the carpet. So I’ve been coming to terms with how anxious I’ve actually been over the past few years. That was quite a painful revelation and a shock to the system.

In the past few months, I’ve been writing a TV show, which has given my days some structure. I haven’t really set goals for myself, so I’ve only been writing when inspiration has struck. Some days, I wake up and think, “Oh my God, I could write all day today, because everything’s flowing,” but other days I sit there and nothing is really happening. Those are the times when being a bit more a bit relaxed has helped. The show is a rom com dram, with a “will they, won’t they” element to it. It’s inspired by my own experiences, and is basically about me if I’d never left home and instead had stayed in Manchester with my mom and sister. It’s funny and joyful, but also quite spiky, which I always like. Spiky, with a lot of love. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to play the character based on me – it’s very much in its fledgling stages.

A book I can recommend to people is Notes to Self by an Irish writer called Emilie Pine, which is a great collection of essays about her life. There’s one essay on periods, and one essay about looking back at the wild days that she had in her younger years and realizing that the stories she’s told as funny anecdotes were actually damaging experiences. It’s just a coping mechanism to think them of them as funny. There’s also an essay on her getting to know her dad, who is an alcoholic, as she gets older and he is getting sober. I had that experience as well with my father, so I found it highly relatable. It’s almost like there’s a part of you that grieves for this person that you’ll never see again, even though they were very troubled. The book is very powerful, very feminist, but also really funny, as she looks at everything with a lovely Irish humor that I really enjoy.

I’ve been watching a lot of TV and films too. I watched all of Succession very, very quickly, which was great, and now I’m watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on Netflix, which is fascinating and makes you feel very good. The idea of a global community is conveyed really well in the show, because he’s in all these parts of the world that I didn’t know anything about, and seeing what people eat there and how they live, it makes the world feel smaller, in a really lovely way. I’ve also been cooking a lot, which is a great thing to do in these times, because it’s low stress. I’m not trying to cook anything too elaborate, and I’ve not been baking, because that’s way too scientific for me. I love one-pan dishes, where you put garlic and all your spices in there. I recently made a lovely cauliflower curry (which was delish, if I may say so myself) and a Thai red curry. I make lots of pasta, which is so cheap and you can feed yourself for weeks with it. Cooking has definitely been a saving grace for me during the lockdown. It’s quite artistic and creative, but also makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something today: I’ve fed myself, I’ve nourished myself.

Aimee Lou Wood is a UK actress who came to international attention in her scene-stealing role of Aimee in Netflix’s Sex Education, starring opposite Gillian Anderson, Asa Butterfield and James Purefoy. The series, which was created by Laurie Nunn and inspired by John Hughes’ Brat Pack films, had 40 million viewers in the first month alone. Season 2 aired earlier this year to widespread critical acclaim. Aimee recently wrapped the biopic Louis Wain, directed by Will Sharpe, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous prolific English artist who rose to prominence at the end of the 19th century. Claire Foy stars as his wife, with Andrea Riseborough, Sharon Rooney, Stacey Martin and Hayley Squires starring alongside Aimee as the Wain sisters. Earlier this year, Aimee starred with Toby Jones in the stage production of Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter; the performance was met with critical acclaim. In 2019, she starred as Effie in the acclaimed Downstate at the National Theatre. Aimee graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2017. (Picture by Matt Holyoak.)