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Sex Education's Gillian Anderson pushed director to change character of Jean Milburn

The X-Files star said she was "fighting against the complexities" of her character.

Sex Education Jean Gillian Anderson
Published: Friday, 26th June 2020 at 2:18 pm

Ever thought there’s something truly odd about Jean Milburn in Sex Education? Gillian Anderson, who plays the sex therapist, would agree. In fact, turns out she lobbied the show’s director to change Jean’s seemingly contradictory personality.


Although Jean grapples with her attitude towards sex in the show, the actress recently revealed she found it difficult to reconcile the conflicting parts of the character.

“As an actor, I think what you’re looking for are characters that have dimension,” she told Deadline. “But, for some reason, when I started reading Jean I was fighting against her complexities.”

She added that she even took these concerns to the Netflix show's director Ben Taylor. “I kept saying to [him], ‘Wait, she’s driving to the school to spy on him? No therapist is going to do that.'

“And he nodded, respectfully, and took in my concerns. And nothing changed, because it shouldn’t have done. That was actually the essence of who she was. And the many layers of Jean eventually became the things I enjoyed playing the most.”

Although Anderson has made her peace with her Sex Education role, her early difficulties are well-documented. The actress revealed she initially threw away the script after her first reading.

“I read a teeny bit of the first episode and threw it in the bin. Initially I felt that it was too on the nose,” she told Entertainment Weekly.

In contrast, Anderson has said she had “no hesitation” in playing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the upcoming fourth season of Netflix’s The Crown.

“There are a few things in life where, if they come your way, you just know you have to say yes, before the fear says no,” she explained to in her recent interview with Deadline.

“But certainly, as we got closer to filming, I almost died. My heart has never beat so fast in all of my life,” she added, explaining her first scene was portraying Thatcher commanding her cabinet of MPs.

“It was a scene they were shooting on a stage at the studio, and so they mapped it out that way in the knowledge that, if you suck, you can always come back and shoot it again if you need to.

“They had already built into the schedule that I would likely be able to fail, and that it wouldn’t be the end of the day. You really feel held. I knew I was going to be all right.”


Sex Education is currently streaming on Netflix. Check out the best Netflix series and best Netflix movies to keep you entertained or visit our TV guide for more to watch.


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