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HBO ensures that sex scenes will never be the same — and that's a good thing

The newly created 'intimacy co-ordinator' is a stunt co-ordinator for sex scenes, says Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The newly created 'intimacy co-ordinator' is a stunt co-ordinator for sex scenes, says Maggie Gyllenhaal

(Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

HBO is revolutionizing the way sex scenes are treated on television. The network, which is known for its graphic, envelope-pushing sex scenes, is the first to hire a full-time "intimacy co-ordinator."

The job comes as a direct result of the #MeToo movement and is designed to protect anyone who is involved in shooting a scene that involves nudity or intimacy.

As reported in Deadline, HBO announced that all of its shows that involve sexually intimate scenes with have a monitor, serving as a mediator between actors, directors and crew. This can be as simple as providing equipment to make an actor more physically comfortable, or making sure they are there, on set, ensuring the actor feels safe.  

HBO's The Deuce, which is about the nascent years of the American porn industry, was the first show to hire such a monitor after actress Emily Meade demanded changes in the on-set culture that left actors feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable when asked to do a sex scene.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is an actor and producer on the show, told q in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival it was a necessary and important change.

"You know when you do a fight scene in a movie? There's always a stunt man there and there's somebody who's just watching so carefully to make sure that everybody's bodies are protected and that everybody feels comfortable and that nobody is put in a position, physically or mentally, that they don't feel OK with," she said. "So we decided to have the same position, basically, for sex scenes so that somebody was there to be your point person in case, physically or mentally or in any way, you felt uncomfortable."

Gyllenhaal says that the role is particularly important for new actors who might be afraid to speak up and "rock the boat" if they were to object to certain elements that made them feel uncomfortable.

"For me, I'm a producer on that show, I'm there every day, I have a great relationship with the people there and if I felt uncomfortable with something, I would have no problem just telling them," she said. "But for a day player who's coming on and so happy to have the job and doesn't want to rock the boat? I think it's kind of amazing to have someone call you the night before to say, I really am here on your side. This is what your contract says and if you want to change anything you let us know and we'll change it."

In Hollywood, there are far too many stories about actors being pushed beyond their comfort levels, but not feeling they have the right to speak up. HBO had its own controversy just three years ago when it was shooting Westworld and the casting office asked background actors to sign waivers that would consent to "graphic sexual situations," such as "genital-to-genital touching."

Gyllenhaal says having an intimacy co-ordinator is designed to avoid situations like this, ensuring that no actors are forced to do something they are uncomfortable with.

"What if you're shooting the scene and you've agreed to do this, and then the director who is a big fancy director who you really admire comes over and says, we'd like you to take your shirt off?" says Gyllenhaal. "These are the things we're trying to help with."

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