HFPA in Conversation: Asa Butterfield’s Early Independence

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros August 5, 2020
Actor Asa Butterfield

gareth cattermole/getty images

Let’s talk about sex: Asa Butterfield stars in the Netflix series Sex Education. He plays Otis Milburn, an insecure teenager who starts to give sex advice to his fellow students. “It’s one of the most special sets I’ve ever been on. There’s such a positive and supportive atmosphere, not just from the other actors but everyone involved in the crew. And we all feel very passionately about this story and about these characters. And it means when it does come to doing those more sensitive or more potentially embarrassing scenes I found especially since doing the show I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable in those situations doing those sort of scenes,” Butterfield told HFPA journalist Barbara Gasser.

Butterfield thinks that one of the reasons the show is doing so well is because it was so relatable. “You saw so much of yourself in one or more of these characters. And all of the show is heightened and it’s very colorful and it kind of feels slightly more elevated than reality, the situations these characters get in and what they feel is incredibly relatable. And I definitely got that with Otis, I think every teenage boy has had that feeling in their gut when someone they have a crush on talks to them or whatever it is or an embarrassing moment in school, those are the things that stick with you for a long time. And to be able to go there and relive it in a weird sort of way was funny.”


Butterfield started acting at the age of seven. Since then he has been in movies like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Hugo, Ender’s Game, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. “I think I had to grow up faster than my peers and my friends in school. I made sure I spent as much time as I could in school and for me school was always a priority when it came to me growing up and where I wanted to spend most of my time. And the acting and film world always came second to that.”

Still, it meant that he spent a fair amount of time outside of school working with adults and working in an adult environment. “By the time I was 14 or 15 I had had quite an independent and quite an experience of the working world and I think that probably made it easier as an adult than when all of my friends were going to university and experiencing that for the first time, I’d already experienced living on my own and traveling on my own and managing myself, managing my time. So I had that sort of maturity quite early on.”

Listen to the podcast and hear if he feels awkward to talk to a person he has a crush on; how he feels when people recognize him; if Sex Education should be used in schools; what were his favorite subjects in school; which instruments he plays; how he spent his Covid-19 quarantine; how his cats entertain him; is he a good cook?; what he learned about himself while teaching acting to others; how he describes his parents; how was it working with Martin Scorsese on Hugo; what he learned from Tim Burton; what kind of impact Journey’s End had on him; how he describes Harrison Ford’s humor; what qualities he likes about himself; and why laughing is important.