In the Netflix series “Sex/Life,” there’s so much flesh on display, one could mistake it for the Spice Channel of the ’90s.
“In one episode [there] is as much sex as you get in one season of most shows,” said Casey Hudecki, the intimacy coordinator for the series, which focuses on a wealthy married mother in stuffy Connecticut fantasizing about her sexcapades with a bad-boy ex. “That [is] pretty unique.”
Within the eight episodes of the show, which premiered in late June, there’s full-frontal male nudity, a well-attended suburban sex party and a montage of protagonist Billie, played by Sarah Shahi, being bent into nearly every position of the Kama Sutra. There’s even a scene with Billie and her ex Brad (played by Adam Demos) engaging in typically taboo oral endeavors with chocolate sauce.
Showrunner Stacy Rukeyser said she and her writers were “very specific on the page” when penning such explicit, blushworthy scenes, which focus on female pleasure.
“When Brad is licking the chocolate sauce off Billie’s body, it specifically says in the script that he starts low and comes all the way up her back,” Rukeyser said.
When she was developing the show, she attended a writers panel where one issue that came up was actors needing more specifics in the script for intimate moments.
“The writer would get embarrassed and say, ‘Then they had sex’ or ‘Then they fell into bed’ and it would either be up to actors to improvise or the director to work out,” she said.
In addition to more specific scripts, intimacy coordinators like Hudecki have also helped to work out the kinks in on-screen sex. The relatively new position, made more common in the era of #MeToo, has the coordinator serving as both advocate and choreographer on set, ensuring that actors feel safe and know precisely what to do with their bodies.
“There were gaps in the industry that were being filled by really good directors or costumers but there was still no one really paying attention to these scenes in an exclusive way,” Hudecki said.
Over the last year, the work of intimacy coordinators has been on full display in popular envelope-pushing shows like the Netflix romance fantasy “Bridgerton” and HBO’s social satire “The White Lotus.” The former showcased lusty scenes that star Regé-Jean Page said shocked his family, while the latter had resort manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) in a graphic encounter with a surfer bellhop played by Lukas Gage. After that taboo-shattering episode aired, Twitter lit up with shocked reactions.
“We’re seeing better sex scenes,” said Alicia Rodis, a pioneering intimacy coordinator who worked on HBO’s “The Deuce.”
Coordinators typically rehearse sexy scenes with actors, who wear special padding to ensure no touching. Hudecki said she was really impressed with Shahi and her co-stars’ performances.
“They did the coital alignment technique really well and they were breathing together,” she said. “Those are the things that make it look sexy.”
Perhaps the raciest scene in “Sex/Life” is a suburban sex party attended by Billie and her husband Cooper, played by Mike Vogel. In every room they enter, there are sex acts of all kinds being simulated and naked bodies splayed about.
But the filming was anything but titillating. Shot in October 2020 amidst the pandemic, actors were in clinical PPE.
“Everyone was in masks, shields and gowns, and people were chosen based on who they could perform with in their bubble,” Hudecki recalled.
That made for some amusing moments with body doubles and stand-ins.
“They would be in [an oral-sex] position but with their mask and shields on and it was ridiculous,” she recalled. “You have to laugh. They don’t have to simulate the act but they are there and fully lit. There was a lot of stress in that time, so let’s acknowledge the absurdity.”
While shooting sensual scenes in the past 18 months has been especially challenging, they’re also what the times demand. Both “Sex/Life” and “Bridgerton” have posted high viewership numbers, and “The White Lotus” has been a late-summer talking point.
“Studios are now looking for escapist fun,” Rukeyser said.
Hudecki, meanwhile, just wrapped shooting a new project that she says is just as provocative as “Sex/Life.”
“People have said ‘Sex/Life’ was like softcore porn,” she said. “But no one said they didn’t watch it because of that reason.”
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