I have updated the gallery with two episode stills and HD screen captures from the final episode of A Teacher. You can check them out in the gallery!
SPOILER ALERT: Do not watch if you haven’t finished the full season of “A Teacher,” streaming now on FX on Hulu.
The finale of FX on Hulu’s provocative limited series “A Teacher” begins 10 years after the penultimate episode, in which it became clear that both Eric (Nick Robinson) and Claire (Kate Mara) were broken in the aftermath of their illegal sexual relationship, when Eric was Claire’s student. During a conversation for Variety‘s inaugural FYC Fest, the show’s creator, Hannah Fidell, Mara and Robinson discussed the finale, and its riveting final scene.
A Teacher’ presents is a disturbing examination of abuse but the last scene managed to provide some form of catharsis for the abused Eric. He finally got to confront his abuser with the damage her actions caused.
Robinson called it “a moment of major catharsis” for Eric. The character now has, “the benefit of time and distance from the relationship, to really lay out to her in no uncertain terms like what this was,” Robinson said. “And what this did to him.”
“I think it is profoundly empowering what Eric says to her in that last scene,” Fidell agreed. “In that he realizes in that moment that he has the power to walk away — and he does.”
The Cut did an interview with Nick about A Teacher. Read it below.
THE CUT – You probably know Nick Robinson best from the 2018 hit Love Simon, a rom-com in which he plays a closeted high-school kid who grapples with his identity while falling in love with a classmate. After the film, the 25-year-old — who has played teenage characters for a decade — told Ellen DeGeneres that he was done playing younger roles.
But then A Teacher came along with a very different high-school story. Written and directed by Hannah Fidell, the show follows an English teacher (Kate Mara) who begins a sexual relationship with her 17-year-old student, Eric, played by Robinson.
It’s adapted from Fidell’s 2013 film of the same name, but while the original film ends when the relationship ends, the series takes it several steps further, exploring consequences for the abuser and the long-term trauma experienced by the survivor. As such, we see the former Disney star take on much darker material than ever before. The Cut spoke to Robinson about playing a male survivor, all of those queasy sex scenes, and how Me Too made A Teacher possible.
What drew you to this role, especially given that you’d sworn off of teen roles?
I was pretty hesitant, but there were a lot of interesting concepts to be explored through the lens of this relationship. With Eric’s character, specifically, we put a lens on male survivors of sexual abuse, and how there could be a double standard there, as well as the tricky nature of consent. It felt like a complicated and timely story.
You were very good in the role — convincing to the point where I found it upsetting to watch! How did you prepare for it? Were you speaking with survivors? Have you seen something like this play out in your life?
It never happened to me in my life, thankfully. I was in touch with a psychologist who worked a lot with male survivors of sexual trauma. He spoke to me at length about his experience treating these survivors, and the ways that they cope with the abuse, and how that’s oftentimes very different from female survivors.
He was saying that even in the cases of extreme abuse, oftentimes male survivors would not see themselves as a victim in the narrative of the relationship until years later — sometimes a decade or more. Then they would really start to examine the relationship with a more critical lens.
You mentioned Me Too earlier, and the director, Hannah Fidell, says that she didn’t think this show would have been made without it. I think everyone — perhaps men in particular — learned a lot during that time. I’m curious, had you been offered this role pre-Me Too, would you have accepted it? And did you learn anything during the movement that lends itself to a job like this?
I can’t really say what I would have done if this role had come around if Me Too hadn’t happened yet, but I can say that, yes, absolutely, I think I, along with most of my peers in this industry, learned a lot from the Me Too movement.
And I think to a certain extent it informed Eric as a character in the show; there’s a culture around male victims of sexual abuse. There’s a high five and a slap on the back. You see that a little bit when Eric is in college; he uses the relationship as a kind of social currency. But I think more than anything, it brought about a culture that made a show like A Teacher possible, and I think from a studio perspective, it brought about a realization and a reckoning that these stories need to be told.
I keep thinking about that last scene between Eric and Claire when they meet up 10 years after their relationship ends. It’s painful to watch because Eric is not okay — he’s still carrying the baggage of the relationship, whereas Claire has a husband and a family and a seemingly perfect life. When I watched it, I wasn’t sure if it was satisfying. Having grown close to the character, how did you feel about it?
Eric, I guess in particular, couldn’t quite find closure. But at the same time, I think that his confrontation with Claire hopefully brought about a type of closure. And you don’t get to see how these characters are sort of outside the context of this story. I’d like to think that Eric actually lives a pretty happy, normal life. I think when he went back to the school and saw Claire, there were a lot of triggers that I think maybe made the wound fresh. But I think he’s moved on.
Nick spoke with GQ about A Teacher and the finale. You can read his interview below:
GQ – Nick Robinson is trying to answer a question until he loses his train of thought. “I might need to get some more coffee,” he says, before bursting out into laughter. It’s a busy time for the fast-rising actor, who’s been on a constant upward trajectory since appearing in a long-running sitcom (Melissa & Joey) and major blockbusters (Jurassic World). In a year where the world remained stagnant, Robinson kept moving forward. His hectic schedule leaves little time to recharge, and in a metaphorical accident so on-the-nose, his phone dies in the middle of our conversation before we pick up where we left off a few minutes later.
Robinson is currently in Toronto filming the upcoming Netflix drama Maid starring Andie McDowell and Margaret Qualley, but he’s also been on our screens in the FX on Hulu miniseries A Teacher as Eric, a high school senior who starts a relationship with his English teacher (played by Kate Mara). It’s an uncomfortable watch, as the show takes a nuanced approach to the relationship by directly addressing what it is: a flagrant abuse of power. (Each episode is bookended with warnings of grooming and a link to support for victims.) It all crystallizes in its powerful final episode, with Robinson pulling off a shattering monologue that outlines the trauma Eric suffered.
A Teacher also marks a turning point for the actor. It’s hard to deny that he has perfected the role of the emotional soft boy, seen in roles like the weepy Everything, Everything and the queer rom-com Love, Simon. (How does he play them so well? “I was one,” he says, simple as that.) But now he’s graduated and looking to the future. “I’m not really necessarily modelling my career after any particular person,” he says. “I’m just making it up as I go along.”
To mark the ending of A Teacher, GQ caught up with Robinson to talk about his research process, what the show says about masculinity, and that devastating finale.
GQ: When you were reading the scripts for the first time, was there anything specific that stood out to you that made you want to take this role?
Nick Robinson: I met with [creator] Hannah [Fidell] and Kate before I read the script and Hannah walked me through the general idea. The show is grappling with some complex ideas around consent and in Eric’s case, he’s a kid. He’s not an adult yet, and Claire is, and she’s in a position of authority. It’s also taking a closer look at male survivors of abuse, sexual or otherwise, and the ways that male survivors are treated differently from female survivors. And the way that men will internalize that abuse and the way that it can express itself later in life.
You’ve talked about your research which involved speaking to a psychologist who specializes in male survivors. What was your perspective or knowledge on the issue before you signed on to the role? Did your viewpoint change at all as you were learning more?
When I first heard the pitch, I was guilty of what I think a lot of people’s first reaction is when they hear about a relationship like that, like, “What’s the big deal?” And the more that I read the scripts, and spoke with the psychologists, the more that opinion did a full 180 and completely changed. The show is very subtle. I think that’s what makes the show unique. It really shows the insidious nature of grooming, and the slippery slope of consent, and all the grey area in between. If you saw Eric and Claire on the street just holding hands, you probably wouldn’t think twice. But Claire is in a position of authority and she abuses that position. And it’s a breach of trust for Eric. He should be able to go to school, and trust that his teachers will remain his teachers.
Speaking with the psychologist, it was really interesting to hear him talk about his experience with survivors of abuse. More often than not, they will refuse to see themselves as victims or survivors for years afterwards, if not, decades. It really takes a lot of work to sometimes reframe the relationship in a way that shows what it really was, or at least shows where boundaries were crossed. Oftentimes the relationship between a female teacher and a male student is fetishized and it’s celebrated in some circumstances. Eric experiences this when he goes to college. His fraternity sees the relationship as a good thing and he uses it as a kind of social currency. And that push/pull between how his peers view the relationship and how Eric feels about it inside is what drives a lot of the second half of the series.
What I thought was really interesting about the show is how it portrays not just the treatment of male survivors, but how that relates to masculinity. How men aren’t allowed to express their pain. Did playing this role have an effect on your own relationship to masculinity at all?
I think now more than ever the ideas of what makes a man and what is and isn’t masculine are changing. And I think it’s for the better. I mean, the whole phrase toxic masculinity is a relatively new phrase. If [people] look at Eric, they say, “Well, you got laid, what’s the big deal?” Which is crass, and it’s not giving any space to Eric’s emotional well being. Traditionally, to be a man, you should be emotionally detached and strong, and someone who can just take care of things. All of that can be good, it can be a great thing. I mean, I love the traditional, masculine values in a lot of ways, and I identify with them, but you just have to leave space for a more nuanced identity, or a conversation around that identity. It’s when things become really binary that you run into issues. I think that’s where toxic masculinity stems from, that it’s considered binary and rigid and inflexible, in terms of, this is what a man does and this is what a man doesn’t. I just think that the whole concept of masculinity is much more fluid now than it has ever been. Some people view it as a threat which is completely the wrong way to look at it in my opinion.
Nick did an interview with ELLE.com about A Teacher. You can read his interview below:
ELLE – FX on Hulu’s unsettling miniseries A Teacher depicts a scenario that’s all too familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a teen drama. An attractive new teacher, Claire (Kate Mara) draws stares from her male students, and in particular from Eric (Nick Robinson). When the two run into each other outside of class, there’s a spark. Claire, stuck in an unhappy marriage and resentful about her own troubled youth, almost immediately starts crossing boundaries with Eric: going to parties with him, confiding in him, and giving him private tutoring sessions. Before long, Claire has seduced Eric—while allowing him to believe he seduced her.
Unlike most pop-cultural depictions of a student-teacher romance, A Teacher has no qualms about depicting the relationship as the predatory crime that it is. After the affair is revealed midway through the season, the show devotes several episodes to exploring the years-long aftermath for Eric, who blames himself for the entire affair for a long time.
Robinson spoke to ELLE.com about the “bait and switch” A Teacher pulls with its central relationship, what he related to in Eric, and what viewers should take from that abrupt final scene.
What were your first impressions of the project?
I didn’t know much about it at all. I met with Hannah early last year for what I thought was a general meeting, and when I got there, Kate Mara was sitting there too. They both started talking to me about A Teacher, so that was my first introduction to it. They did a great job pitching it and it sounded really interesting. I hadn’t read any scripts and I hadn’t seen Hannah’s movie, so it was only after that meeting that I started to put all the pieces together. But from Hannah and Kate’s telling of it, the show sounded intense and complex and intriguing.
The show walks a fine line of depicting a real spark between Claire and Eric without glamorizing what’s happening. As an actor, how conscious were you of that tension, particularly in the early scenes with Kate?
I think the spark is that classic bait and switch. The spark is to get the audience interested—as a viewer, you see two characters have chemistry onscreen and you’re automatically programmed to root for them, you know? That’s no different here—it’s just that over the course of the series, you really get to see why these two people should not be together. I think around episode 3, 4, 5, things really start to take a turn and challenge the audience’s initial reaction to the relationship. I think Hannah and Kate both set out to play into some of the stereotypes associated with a story like this, and then break those down.
Both in high school and at college, Eric is part of this very macho, bro-y culture, which has a clear impact on the way he processes what happened to him. His friends think it’s kind of awesome that he slept with his teacher.
Yeah, Eric is really trying to reconcile the views of his peers, the views of his parents or authority figures, and then his own view of the relationship. It breeds a lot of confusion. I think with Eric going to UT, he wants to play into what seems to be the dominant culture, at least at that frat, and be totally unaffected by this relationship and be lauded and praised for it. But that’s not the reality of what’s happening. It did affect him, and that’s what comes out. “Toxic masculinity” is a relatively new phrase, and I think the show is exploring some of that: the pitfalls of toxic masculinity, or just not being a very reflective person.
Was there anything in particular about Eric’s character that resonated with you?
Well, I went to a private school in Los Angeles for junior and senior year, and I did have a similar experience to Eric when he was in college, in some ways. Not to get too personal, but that was something I identified with: the frat culture, the party culture, the ways those two work hand-in-hand to limit self-introspection. The party scene can just be a cover for not experiencing other harder emotions, you know?
For sure. And Claire doesn’t seem great at self-introspection either—that becomes clear in their final scene.
Yeah, Eric is seeking closure, and hopefully, he found it. I don’t know, though, it’s kind of left slightly ambiguous at the end. I feel like that scenario would just be so frustrating, where she doesn’t see his reality and he doesn’t see hers. Both characters leave that meeting unfulfilled, ultimately. Hopefully, they both leave and go on with their lives, but who knows?
I have updated the gallery with HD screen captures from the ninth episode of A Teacher. If you are someone you know needs support, know you are not alone. Help is available, you can visit a-teacher-resources.com
Here is the preview of the final episode of A Teacher, out next Tuesday!
Claire and Eric have seemingly moved on with their lives, but a chance encounter brings new truths to light.
How did A Teacher go from small indie movie to critically-acclaimed TV series? Go behind-the-scenes for an INSIDE LOOK with the cast and creators.