‘The Deuce’ Star Emily Meade Reveals What It Was Like Fighting for an On-Set Intimacy Coordinator

If you watched last night’s The Deuce season three premiere, or any other episode of the series for that matter, then you know sex scenes make up a large portion of the show. Since the beginning of the series, Emily Meade, who plays sex-worker-turned-adult-film-star Lori Madison, has been a main player in many of these scenes. And it was only after some deep soul searching that she realized something needed to change.

“I was getting older and more sensitive and more honest with myself about my relationship with having to do a high volume of sex scenes,” the 30-year-old Deuce star told PureWow during an exclusive interview.

That self-awareness, coupled with the advent of two movements that would change the entertainment industry forever, left Meade asking herself some tough questions. “When everything happened with Time’s Up and the Me Too movement and our show became a part of that conversation, I did a lot of moral inventory and tried to reflect and ask myself what ways I had helped perpetuated the issue by either being silent about my own feelings or what I’m witnessing or what I’m saying,” Meade admitted. “And I came to the conclusion I did have discomfort and I wasn’t always happy with the way things were run, not just on The Deuce, but in general.”

So, Meade approached HBO eager to shift the narrative and best practices not only on The Deuce set but also in the industry as a whole. To her surprise, they didn’t only hear her out, they acted swiftly.

Like many, Meade had no idea there was such thing as an intimacy coordinator, but she knew that like animal handlers and child chaperones on set, actors performing in sex scenes needed a protective barrier.

“[Sex scenes] are a very vulnerable, very sensitive situation that I think requires an expert who’s there to help oversee and protect,” she explained. “So that’s what I asked for with HBO. And I didn’t even know that I was describing a position that already existed. And so they were able to hire one very quickly.”

The HBO powers that be brought on Alicia Rodis, the woman who essentially invented the intimacy coordinator role in Hollywood. Meade says working with Rodis has brought about an “insanely fast evolution” that has allowed the cast to form “connection and trust within the moment.” The first day Rodis was on set, she encouraged Meade and a fellow actor to look each other in the eye and give each other permission to touch one another. In the moment, Meade said she felt like “a 12-year-old boy,” but ultimately the experience revealed to her, “‘Oh, I have a lot of work to do.”

All in all, Meade sees her experience standing up and inciting change in her place of work as “definitely the proudest moment of my career.” She went on to say, “It has helped give me a lot of hope for going forward [and trust] that things actually can change.” Same here, Emily. Same here.

Lex Goodman

Cat mom, yogi, brunch enthusiast

Lex is an LA native who's deeply obsessed with picnics, Slim Aarons, rosé, Hollywood history and Joan Didion. She joined PureWow in early 2017.
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