Sex Education is back with its third season and this time Mimi Keene’s character, Ruby Matthews – the show’s resident Mean Girl – is at the heart of a major new storyline.
However, unlike her on-screen alter ego in the sex positive, coming-of-age series, when we meet over Zoom, Mimi is far from your classic Mean Girl. In fact, the 22-year-old is quite the opposite: warm, cheerful and full of energy.
The third season will see Mimi’s character take centre stage as the show tackles new themes, including her difficult family life and a surprising new relationship.
Fans will see Ruby in a whole new light as we’re invited into her home for the first time, where she cares for her father who suffers with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and the toll it takes on her. Her dynamic with the kids at school – particularly Otis – also takes up much of the storyline this season, though we’ll let you watch and see just how much Ruby has changed.
It’s the first time Mimi has had a central storyline on the show and it’s no small feat. Here, the former Eastenders star dishes the dirt on what we can expect from Ruby, the societal pressures for young women to be “perfect” and the importance of keeping your mental health in check. Oh, and we also hear all about how she bagged her pet dog a starring role on the show…
Congrats on the new season. There’s a lot more character development for Ruby in this season and it feels like we get to know a different side to her. What are you most excited for viewers to see from Ruby?
Ruby’s quite different this season. There’s a lot more of a deep dive into her character. It’s not just the hard, mean exterior that we’ve seen from her up until now. I think in the last season we saw a little glimpse of another side to her and this season really looks into that, focusing on other aspects of her life, like her home.
As you said, we saw a glimpse of Ruby’s home life in season 2 which indicated that she’s leading a bit of a double life. What can we expect from that?
We start to see how things that look very shiny and perfect on the outside might not be that way in reality. There’s a lot she has to deal with in her family. She has to take care of a lot more stuff than people might realise. Stuff that no one at school or any of her friends know anything about because none of her friends have ever been to her house. Her dad is a huge factor in all of it.
Can you tell us a bit about her relationship with her dad?
Yes, so it’s really sad. Her dad has MS [Multiple sclerosis] which David, the actor they got to play Ruby’s dad, also has in real life. The first time you hear about Ruby’s dad is at the end of season two but you didn’t actually get to see him. In season three, we really go into that and what it actually looks like to live with MS and also what Ruby is involved in and what she has to do.
Seeing this softer side to Ruby is something a lot of young women will be able to relate to, especially with social media and societal pressures to appear as though you have the “perfect” life. What do you think you relate to the most about her?
I think that’s really important. It’s going to be so helpful to young people to see because with Ruby, you see this shiny portrayal that she puts forward with the way she carries herself but that’s not really the case for her, so I think people will be able to relate to the idea of feeling like you have to be perfect all the time.
In terms of what I can relate to the most personally, it’s definitely not her meanness [laughs]. It would be the fashion. She always looks great, she loves bright colours and coordinating which is similar to me. I’ve always colour coordinated my clothes since I was a child. My mum would always say to me ‘not everything you wear has to be the same or matching down to the socks’!
There’s also a new relationship on the cards for Ruby that we’re introduced to pretty early on. How do you think viewers will react to this?
I’m very nervous and excited. I know it’s a bit weird to bring this relationship in because their dynamic has been something else up until now, so I don’t know. I think the reaction will be split. Some people will like it but we’ll have to see. I think it’s funny, there are a lot of moments that are funny between them and good to watch. I think people will be surprised because it’s another part of Ruby’s character development.
There are plenty of themes in the show but sex is obviously the main one. How would you describe Ruby’s relationship with sex?
She’s quite free. She hasn’t been in relationships before so anything that has happened has always been very casual for her until now. She doesn’t usually like to be tied down or get into anything too serious. In this new relationship that definitely changes because like in real life, that can happen. You make all these rules to keep things casual and then it ends up developing into something more.
Ruby is obviously going through a lot in this season, most of which would take its toll on anyone’s mental health. How did you take care of your own mental health?
I think it’s really important to communicate with people. Just making sure I’m speaking to my friends and family regularly, checking in on them as well as them checking in on me. I also find exercise really helpful. For me, I love taking my dogs out on walks/runs too because it’s something I can do alone to clear my mind and center myself.
As a cast, you all seem to get on so well. Who are you closest to?
Everyone’s so nice! We’ve known each other for quite a long time now as it’s the third season. But I’d say my first close friend was Chaneil Kular who plays Anwar. Me, Chaneil and Simone Ashley (who plays Olivia) all sat together when we went for our first read through and we just got on straight away. They were my first crew.
What has been your favourite memory from filming this season?
I actually had one of the best days [because] there was a new star of the show, my daughter, Baby. She’s a Chihuahua, not a human! But Ruby’s dog in the show is my actual dog in real life! I’ve been trying to get her on the show forever. I’ve been sliding it into conversations with Ben Taylor, the director, since the first season and he always said we’ll do it so this time I finally got the green light. Her first scene was magical, I felt like a proud mum.