Shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld enjoy a certain freedom that comes with being housed on HBO, pushing the boundaries with explicit sex scenes that will make the more reserved blush. And while the final product looks seamless on screen, the road to get there can often be quite awkward and uncomfortable due to the level of intimacy and trust required to create these sensitive scenes. It's even more complicated when you consider that many of these sex scenes feature little to no direction and actors are often asked to just "go for it."
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, HBO is doing its part to foster a comfortable working environment for its actors as they perform these intimate scenes. That's thanks to The Deuce actress Emily Meade, who advocated to bring in an intimacy coordinator to help facilitate her explicit love scenes on the retro series. Now, HBO requires intimacy coordinators for all their shows and films featuring sex scenes, Rolling Stone reports.
The inclusion of an intimacy coordinator on the set of The Deuce has already been felt by Meade, who plays the porn star Lori. In the spring, when the actress was instructed to simulate oral sex on screen, something she had never done before, the show's intimacy coordinator, Alicia Rodis, was on hand to alleviate any discomfort and act as a personal advocate, providing knee pads, mouth spray and flavored lubricant, and relaying any of her concerns with the director.
"With intimate moments, from kissing to intense sex scenes, it's been the practice [for directors] to just say 'Whatever you're comfortable with, just go for it,'" Rodis told Rolling Stone. "But if you're not giving someone a map or an exit or a voice, just asking actors to roll around and get off on each other, are you asking your actors to do sex work? Or tell a story with their movements? If your set doesn't have an intimacy coordinator, at best, you might not be able to tell the story you wanted to tell. At worst, you have actors who are being physically assaulted."
After consulting with a bevy of professionals, including sex workers and psychologists, and listening to harrowing stories from actors and crew, Rodis took these concerns to heart and has worked to improve the way that sex scenes are filmed. More than just ensuring that an actor is physically comfortable during a scene, Rodis works as the middle person between an actor and a director so that everyone is comfortable with what is being asked of the actors and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
"I am here to give a voice to actors, especially actors who feel like they don't have one. And I'm also here for the producers, to make sure that they know they're doing their best to make sure the set is safe," added Rodis, who also acts as an intimacy coordinator on the set of Crashing, the Watchmen adaptation and upcoming Deadwood film."Here we are a year after #MeToo and Brett Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court. Donald Trump is our president. Now, tell me we don't need this — that we don't have a culture that needs to still be changed."
The culture has already begun to change, thanks to Rodis' work. HBO's policy to staff intimacy coordinators for all shows and films is a great step in the right direction, and The Deuce showrunner David Simon also already stated that he would never work without one again. Hopefully more networks and producers will follow suit.