Jaime Winstone: talking about sex to save lives

The actress tells Ian Burrell why her new documentary is a very personal project
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The Independent Culture

"Some people will think 'Oh God, it's a programme about blow jobs!'" admits Jaime Winstone of her new project for the BBC, a rare excursion into factual programming and one that she has taken very seriously. And actually, it is about oral sex but not in the way that some of Winstone's film characters engaged with such carnal matters.

In films such as Kidulthood and Donkey Punch, Winstone has become associated with playing wild young women. The daughter of actor Ray Winstone also appeared in an orgy scene for a pop video. But as she points out, "I'm 25 now," and ready to tackle something more serious. Winstone's new film for BBC3, Is Oral Sex Safe, is essentially a science programme. "I never thought I would want to do a documentary but it was just the right timing," she says.

The programme is part of a "Dangerous Pleasures" season on the BBC"s youth-oriented channel aimed at giving viewers facts about the risks surrounding sexual promiscuity, drug use and binge drinking. Winstone was asked by Leopard Films to present a documentary on the hidden danger of oral sex: namely a rare form of cancer. The approach, she says was "timely", given that one of her friends was very ill with colon cancer. "It's a real journey. I wanted it to be personal because I lost my friend Paul during the filming," she says.

The form of cancer associated with oral sex is orophyrangeal. It is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and is rising in spite of the existence of a vaccine. "The way I approached it was matter-of-fact," Winstone says. "I was talking to professors and doctors. It's about the risks of oral sex and making people aware of them and what they can do to prevent them. A lot of people don't know what HPV is – I didn't when I started the documentary."

Winstone hopes her involvement in the programme will encourage young viewers to overcome aversions to health warnings. "At school, I remember not wanting to watch the boring educational programmes that might save my life one day," she says. "It's easy to turn a blind eye and it's hard to go to a doctor and ask them about HPV, [just as] it's hard to have smear tests for women. There's always going to be an embarrassment factor." If the presence of a feisty character like Winstone can get an audience of 16-34s to "actually watch", she will feel a sense of achievement.

Another programme about the risks of promiscuity, Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, follows teens on holidays to fleshpot resorts and secretly flies mum and dad out to observe and comment.

The channel has also hired actress Emily Atack to host an investigation into the health effects of teenage drinking games, Ready, Steady, Drink. Atack is best known as an object of desire for the teenage boys in The Inbetweeners, Channel 4's sitcom.

At the heart of the season is a three-part series, How Drugs Work, which uses computer-generated imagery to track the effects of narcotics. Charlotte Moore, the BBC's commissioning editor for documentaries, says: "I'm hoping it will hit a core interest of theirs and impart important information."

'Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents' is on BBC3 tomorrow at 9pm; 'Is Oral Sex Safe?' is on BBC3 at 9pm on 10 January

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