The times they are a-changin’, and lo and behold HBO is ahead of the curve when it comes to making sex scenes safer and more comfortable for the actors. The pay cable network has earned a reputation over the years for, well, graphic nudity. Shows like True Blood and Rome could get away with R-rated sex scenes, which would allow them to further stand out from traditional broadcast network fare. Then sex on HBO hit a new level with Game of Thrones, which took these sorts of scenes to near-pornographic heights, much to the dismay of many. While Thrones is one of the most popular TV shows in history, it’s taken significant flack for gratuitous sex and nudity, almost always involving women.
To be fair, Thrones has calmed down a bit in recent seasons, but in the era of #MeToo, the HBO series The Deuce has paved the way for a new, safer way to shoot sex scenes. David Simon’s drama series is packed with sex and nudity as the story revolves around the burgeoning porn industry in 70s/80s New York City, but as Season 2 rolled around, actress Emily Meade decided it was time to make her discomfort known (via Rolling Stone):
Despite the fact that Meade had been doing sex scenes since she was 16 years old, they still had the power to make her feel uneasy. Part of the problem was that she sometimes felt so alone. When she had misgivings about a scene, was uncomfortable or cold, or felt too naked — physically or emotionally — in between takes, it was always up to her to say so, right there in front of everyone. Like many actors, she didn’t want to disappoint the people she worked with or to seem like she was complaining. Over the years, she’d often resigned herself to taking the path of least resistance, even if it took a toll on her. For some jobs, she even packed her own safety supplies, like a flesh-colored thong that she hoped would protect her during nude scenes. All too often, no one else considered those details.
Indeed, Rolling Stone broke the news earlier this month that Meade asked to have what’s called an “intimacy coordinator” on set for Season 2, and it was so successful that now HBO has instilled a new policy going forward: all HBO programs involving sex scenes will be staffed by an intimacy coordinator.
What is an intimacy coordinator, you ask? Well for The Deuce that was a woman named Alicia Rodis, who co-founded the nonprofit Intimacy Directors International in 2016. Her role was outlined in the Rolling Stone piece:
In practical terms, Rodis is a mediator among actors, directors, producers and crew. She reviews scripts, facilitates group discussions about the sex scenes they’re going to film and meets with actors individually. When new or tweaked sex scenes are added to a day’s shoot, she is often the one to break the news to an actor, checking in to clarify what their personal boundaries are — to make sure, as she puts it, “consent is informed and certain before we move forward.” Then she advocates for the actors in discussions with the production team.
“It’s not the things [she does] that are so radical,” Meade says. “It’s just having someone other than yourself to think about it. It shouldn’t be a radical concept to give someone something to cover their private parts. But to have someone do it at all — the gesture of it — it helps.”
Rodis’ presence on The Deuce set was so welcome that Simon says he’ll never work without an intimacy coordinator again, and Rodis is already overseeing the sets of HBO’s Crashing, Watchmen, and the Deadwood movie. She’s additionally training new coordinators to be on hand during other productions as this welcome new industry gets off the ground.
The idea of an intimacy coordinator now seems like a no-brainer—sets have stunt coordinators to oversee those dangerous scenes, so why not have a professional to take care of what can be uncomfortable and at times dangerous sex scenes for the actors? This is a very good thing, and it’s heartening to see HBO—which hasn’t exactly been progressive in this regard—ahead of the curve.