The Untold Truth Of Emma Mackey

Netflix sensation "Sex Education" is fast rivalling the original "Skins" in the prolific career launchpad department. Since the rather bizarre mish-mash of British settings and American aesthetics premiered in 2019, Ncuti Gatwa has become the new Doctor of "Doctor Who," Connor Swindells has landed a lead role in an SAS drama, and Aimee Lou Wood has won a BAFTA. And now another previous unknown looks like graduating from Moordale with a much higher profile.

Yes, Emma Mackey, who plays self-assured teen and arguably the catalyst for Otis' sex therapy clinic, Maeve Wiley, has been cast in two massive future hits which couldn't be further poles apart. Firstly, she'll star alongside Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in Greta Gerwig's over-the-top live-action flick "Barbie." And then she'll take the leading lady role of Emily Brontë in a biopic of the venerated author. This girl has obviously got range.

So with Mackey now set to conquer Hollywood in the manner she's conquered tonally offbeat high school dramedies, what better time to delve deep into her untold truth?

Emma Mackey is French

You probably wouldn't have been surprised if it was revealed that Emma Mackey was actually from the States. After all, the show that launched her to fame, "Sex Education," appears to take great delight in mixing all things Anglo and American for no apparent reason. But it's unlikely that you'd ever have guessed that the woman who plays rebellious teen Maeve Wiley was actually born and raised in France. 

As per i-D, Mackey's mother is English and her father is French. Evidently ready for a change of scenery once high school graduated arrived, the future Netflix star headed across the Channel to pursue a degree at Leeds University. 

When asked which nation she feels a stronger affinity with by the Irish Times in 2020, Mackey replied, "It depends where I am. When I was in France I felt overwhelmingly British and felt like I needed to catch up on lost time. When I eventually moved to England I felt, this is my world. The theatre. The literature. In the UK we have so many influences: the Romans, the Norse, the Angles. We have so many communities. That's how you can have so many accents within seven miles. Now I am back working in France, I feel that I have filled that British gap. I feel more balanced."

What Emma Mackey and Maeve have in common

Emma Mackey might now have adaptations of everything from Agatha Christie's "Death on the Nile" and Emily Brontë's life to the fictional pink princess world of "Barbie" on her resume. But for a certain generation she will always be confident sex therapy clinic-founding teen Maeve Wiley in Netflix dramedy "Sex Education."

So are there any similarities between the actor and her fictional counterpart? Well, Mackey can definitely relate to her loner status, sharing with The Irish Times in 2020 that she didn't always have the easiest go of it while growing up in France. "I did feel like an outsider — because I was English," she told the outlet. "Regardless, I think anyone who has another nationality is a little bit on the outside." 

But Mackey also revealed that some of Maeve's traits are completely alien to her, particularly her no-nonsense attitude and style. While both bookworms, Mackey said her high school persona was not like Maeve's. "I wasn't confident like her," she said. When Newsweek asked her to pick a trait of Maeve's she finds inspiring, Mackey said, "The 'one' would be that she's unapologetic, I think that's what I've learned from her in my own life."

Emma Mackey has had enough of the London life

Emma Mackey has said she couldn't wait to get out of her hometown of Sablé-sur-Sarthe and move to London as a teenager. But after ten years in the English capital city the actor realized she actually belonged on the other side of the Channel.

In an interview with Flaunt, Mackey argued it took a lot of courage to once again make such a drastic move all these years later. "I moved away from London and moved back to this country. And a lot of things in my personal life changed, and I had to be brave about that and stand up for myself. I think that is quite brave," she said. And the French life appears to be suiting the "Sex Education" star much better second time around, particularly for the fact she now has time to enjoy the simpler things. 

Mackey reiterated her rediscovered love of all things French when she was asked about her favorite place in the whole wide world by Conde Nast Traveller. She replied, "When I was about 14 or 15, I went to Scout camp in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, just below Gap, where we would hike through the mountains. I'm deeply moved by peaks; they make me emotional. Even though I was young, I remember feeling fulfilled there."

Don't tell her she looks like Margot Robbie

Whatever you do, don't ever compare Emma Mackey to Margot Robbie. While it has been said time and time again that Mackey and Robbie (and Samara Weaving and Jaime King and Jaime Pressly) are doppelgängers, the "Sex Education" star has stated on the record that she does not exactly love being held up against the Australian on several occasions. Luckily, considering that the pair both ended up working on the same film together, Mackey's frustration wasn't born out of a dislike of her "Barbie" co-star.

When the topic of whether or not the two actors have similar facial features came up in an interview with The Independent, Mackey replied, "I genuinely just don't see it at all. Like, it's lovely to be compared to Margot Robbie, but mostly I'd rather people focus on the jobs that we're both doing rather than what we look like." 

If it makes Mackey feel any better, then Robbie also has to constantly deal with the comparisons, too, and sometimes at the most inopportune moments as she explained in a chat with Radio 1, "Someone came up to me, I was eating a burger. And they were like 'I loved you in "Sex Education," that show is so cool, we just started watching it.' And I was like 'I'm so sorry, it's not me.'"

Emma Mackey is not a huge fan of social media

Emma Mackey once had the kind of Instagram following that even most professional influencers would sell their grandmother for. The "Sex Education" star had no fewer than five million followers on the photo-sharing platform in 2020 and that number was only likely to have risen even higher in the wake of her casting in "Barbie" and "Emily."

It's a tally which Mackey herself found difficult to believe, particularly as the actor had barely posted anything on there. She told The Guardian in 2021, "I don't really have a comfortable relationship with social media. I don't have Twitter, I don't have Facebook, or things like that." The actor also revealed that she never reads the comments, adding, "Maybe that's quite pessimistic, but I kind of see it as: it can only be detrimental to my brain and self-confidence. So I just don't. It's not my job to be an Instagrammer so I don't see why I would spend my waking hours scrolling through an app, of which I am a product."

Mackey's stance on all things social media obviously hardened further as later on that same year the star deleted her Instagram account. It's not known exactly why she waved goodbye to millions of followers in one fell swoop. As of this writing, her account remains deactivated.

Emma Mackey doesn't see herself as a sex symbol

Emma Mackey became a sex symbol for a generation overnight when she first appeared as the rebellious Maeve Wiley in Netflix phenomenon "Sex Education." But the actor believes that she's actually at her least desirable when she's playing the fan favorite.

In a 2021 chat with the Sydney Morning Herald, the actor said, "I don't see myself as beautiful at all, and my skin is always really, really terrible when I film 'Sex Ed' ... My confidence feels like zero because I'm in a 17-year-old's skin and I'm wearing short skirts that I don't feel comfortable in, I'm wearing fishnet tights that dig into my skin and leave red marks at the end of every day, and I'm wearing a leather jacket that's too small for me and too squeaky." In fact, just discussing the issue during the interview unsettled Mackey, with the star going on to add that she would hate to be defined by the role that launched her to fame. 

Mackey also is happy to leave Maeve's blonde hair in the past. As she once said to her younger herself in a feature for Stylist, "[D]on't get your hair bleached for a Netflix show because it burns off." Duly noted. 

Emma Mackey has been linked to a star of the stage

Emma Mackey prides herself on keeping her private life private but she has inadvertently given the press at least a few tidbits about her relationship status. In 2018, she uploaded some loved-up snaps with a mystery man to Instagram who was later reported to be her boyfriend, fellow actor Dan Whitlam.

Mackey and Whitlam continued to share romantic pictures on the social media platform including several from an idyllic getaway with friends to the south of France. While updates regarding their relationship status — whatever it may be — are scant, in 2020, the Evening Standard reported they were still a thing. 

Well, you're more likely to have seen Whitlam on the stage than on screen. Per his Guildhall School alum bio, his most notable credits are in the plays "The Government Inspector" and "All Quiet on the Western Front," with both productions staged at London's Pleasance Theatre. His bio also notes that he is 6'4", can play the saxophone and piano, and perhaps most intriguingly of all, can spit a few bars, too. And in an interview with London News Online, Whitlam recalled how he was stabbed with a screwdriver in his teenage years while coming to the rescue of a friend who was being mugged at the time. The star actually suffered a collapsed lung due to the incident. "Looking back it seems surreal but it was the classic case of wrong place, wrong time," he told the outlet. We'd say so.

Emma Mackey has directing ambitions

Emma Mackey may have only been in the professional acting game since 2018. But perhaps inspired by her time filming with Greta Gerwig on the vision of pink that is "Barbie" ("She's everything I could have dreamed of. She's so invested and precise, and so childishly delighted by what she's doing," Mackey said in Empire of the filmmaker), the star already has her sights set on taking the director's chair.

In a 2021 chat with The Guardian, Mackey revealed that ever since first stepping on to a set she's been just as interested in what goes on behind the camera as in front of it, though she doesn't have any plans in the works just yet. "I'd probably quite enjoy directing because I'd see the whole thing through, as opposed to just popping in for two months, getting to do a bit of acting ... then off, poof, it's not mine any more," she said. The "Sex Education" star also has ambitions to be a writer, too, although as with her directing dreams she's not actually set the wheels in motion. Still, Mackey remains confident that they will both come to fruition, adding, "I've got ideas. When the time's right they'll happen, and I'll just trust in that, I think."

Emma Mackey was something of a late bloomer

Emma Mackey might be best-known for playing a rebellious student who co-founds a sex therapy clinic for her peers. But back in her own high school years, the actor avoided all things carnal entirely. 

In a 2020 interview with Vogue, Mackey revealed that she's glad that "Sex Education" represents female characters with sexual desires. "It's true and it's the reality," she stated. But she also praised the Netflix hit for giving a voice to those not interested in sex, like her teenage self. "I didn't give a s*** about sex, boys or anything for ages," she recalled. "I just wanted to read, play the piano and concentrate on my studies." She went on to note that there's nothing wrong with feeling that way in high school; everyone moves at their own pace.

Mackey, who spent the period in question at the l'académie de Nantes in her native France, also revealed to Evening Standard that she got something of a culture shock when she moved to England to study at the University of Leeds. "I had to toughen up a bit," she said. "People made me realize I was quite innocent and oblivious to certain things. I wanted to make people like me." 

Emma Mackey nearly turned down her breakout role

It's hard to imagine any other actor playing the nose-pierced, pink-haired, rebellious teen Maeve Wiley. But Emma Mackey very nearly lost out on the coveted "Sex Education" role, and that was down entirely to herself.

When asked whether she had any idea that the show would strike such a chord, the actor told Elle, "I had no clue. I wasn't sure if I was even going to do it. I'd never done [a TV series] before, so it was quite a momentous thing to take on." But she took it on, and her overall experience has been positive — one might say it's been a bit too positive. She continued, "Other jobs now, I'm kind of like, 'Why isn't this like "Sex Ed"?'"

Mackey's relaxed attitude obviously worked in her favor, although she admitted she may have been just a little too relaxed. In a separate interview with i-D, the star explained, "I was completely oblivious throughout the whole audition period. Even when it got to chemistry reads and I was the only Maeve there that day, I still hadn't clocked that I was in with a chance." Yes, even after she was The Maeve reading opposite a revolving door of actors trying out for the other parts, she still assumed they were looking for a bigger star. She remembered thinking, "I still don't have headshots!" 

Sex Education has given Emma Mackey a sex education

You're never too old to learn more about the facts of life. Take Emma Mackey, for example. The actor was aged 23 when she landed the role of rebellious teen Maeve Wiley in "Sex Education." But the comedy-drama, which has been praised by outlets like the Daily Beast and The Washington Post for its positive approach to sexuality, still managed to teach her several new life lessons about the birds and the bees. In a 2019 chat with Vulture, Mackey revealed that there's one particular area that the show has really helped to open her eyes to. "What it taught me most was relief: All these weird times that you have when you're a teenager, everyone has them I never spoke about masturbation at school; it just wasn't a thing for some reason. Girls and pleasure, it's really taboo," she shared. 

And Mackey, who once quipped in The Telegraph that the Netflix hit should be a part of the school syllabus, isn't the only member of her French-Brit family who got a sex education from the show. "My grandparents actually said they wished they had a show like this 50 years ago," she shared. "My grandma literally said that her sex education at a girls' grammar school in the '40s and '50s was rabbits reproducing."

Emma Mackey loves her own company

You might have spotted Emma Mackey sashaying down the red carpet at a film premiere or enjoying a spot of tennis at Wimbledon. But the "Sex Education" star isn't always such a social butterfly. In fact, she now seems to enjoy spending time on her lonesome more than she does in company.

That doesn't mean that the French-born actor simply lazes about in front of the TV, though, as she explained to Glamour in 2020, "Making the active decision to spend a lot of time alone has been really beneficial because it means that these old things, like drawing have suddenly come back into my life and I'm drawing and sketching again which I haven't done in years." In a chat with Flaunt, she shared she also finds delight in experimenting in the kitchen.

And Mackey believes that others should take a leaf out of her own book. "I think it's really important to self-care," she said in Glamour. "I know it's a luxury and I know that not everyone has the time to do that, but ... it can be 10 minutes a day where you're just like get away from your phone." 

Emma Mackey is a 'secret nerd'

So it seems like Emma Mackey is the "Sex Education" cast member you'd most want on your team at a game night. Well, as long as said game night involved something a little more academic than Throw Throw Burrito, anyway. For just like her most famous character Maeve Wiley, the actor likes to put the ol' noggin to the test. As she said in a 2020 chat with British newspaper The Telegraph, "We're both secret nerds."

The actor who once geeked out to The Guardian about how playing Emily Brontë is a dream come true for her literature-loving self told The Telegraph that she was far more excited about the show's quiz team subplot than anything carnal-related. "I love general knowledge quizzes and Trivial Pursuit," she said. Judging from that interview, Mackey isn't just a secret nerd, she's also a secret swot. The actor went on to add, "Often, the producers would add extra questions in for me while filming. I even got a non-scripted one right!" Expect to see Mackey popping up on the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" hot seat any time now.

Emma Mackey bonded with her Sex Education co-stars

There's a reason why you haven't heard about any "Desperate Housewives"-style behind-the-scenes catfights on "Sex Education." And that's because the cast of the Netflix dramedy really do appear to get on like a house on fire.

In a 2020 interview with Stylist, Emma Mackey, who plays sex therapy clinic co-founder Maeve Wiley, revealed that it was the relationships with her castmates that helped her get accustomed to being an overnight sensation, singing the praises of Asa Butterfield and the one and only Gillian Anderson. Speaking with BuzzFeed, she also mentioned how much she loves working with Aimee Lou Wood. 

In that same BuzzFeed chat, Mackey revealed that there's one co-star that she's particularly close to. When asked which character she looks forward to filming scenes with, the actor replied, "Eric, always. I mean Ncuti [Gatwa] and I have said this among ourselves in our own lives, like, 'Why don't we have more scenes together?' I would love for Maeve to have every scene with Eric just because I think Ncuti's brilliant and so good at what he does. It's a joy to watch him work and also he's my best mate. I love him. There's a bonus to Maeve having scenes with Eric because I get to hang with Ncuti." Aww.