This is the future of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements.
Emily Meade is changing the entertainment industry, one sex scene at a time.
The actress, who stars on "The Deuce," has enacted a seismic shift at HBO that will have repercussions across Hollywood.
If you haven't heard, Meade who plays a porn actress on "The Deuce," demanded she have an intimacy coordinator for sex scenes on the latest season of her hit show. While common in the theater world, such a demand was unprecedented in the TV and film industries. HBO not only said yes, they decided that from now on all of their shows involving sexual content would have intimacy coordinators.
This, our dear readers, is the future of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. Meade has progressed the conversation concerning consent beyond just the "casting couch" and placed a spotlight on what happens on set, in the workplace.
When it came to requesting an intimacy coordinator, the actress told us: "The strange thing is I actually had never heard of one. I didn't know that this position ever existed. I guess I thought when I came to this idea, I thought I was practically inventing it. I didn’t even know, which is kind of crazy. It's almost worse that it did exist and it's not something that people were using. It just wasn't being utilized."
What follows is TooFab's conversation with Meade regarding how she came to find her solution and what she sees as the future of feminism in Hollywood.
How House Cleaning Hollywood Led to Intimacy Coordinators
[When] Times Up and #MeToo started [it] couldn't have been a more intense and specific timing. It was while the first season [of "The Deuce"] was airing, we were now suddenly as a global community talking about sexuality in the industry. It was a slow process for me to even realize the show's relevance in that and my experiences in that. I think the sad part is as a woman or as an actor, performer at all, you're so used to just accepting everything that it's almost...I didn’t even connect the dots at first that my experiences were relevant to this conversation.
Then that obviously became even more clear when our show got under fire and under the microscope because of the allegations with James [Franco] -- and his allegations have nothing to do with my experience on it and that's not why I have these feelings. But it still brought our show into the conversation which was a really interesting realization of "oh wow, yes, we're actually a part of this, we're relevant to this."
So in that process we were gearing up to Season 2 and I didn't feel great about being sexualized in that way. Normally I would've just tried to shut down and bear through it, but with this conversation coming up I realized that I was entitled to have a conversation again and bring this up and so I did. I thought about it -- with the help of my team and my lawyer, my agents, my manager -- and it very quickly came to me that there was a very obvious resolution that, again, I didn’t even know existed.
We have stunt coordinators for even the most minor stunts, and you know, I’ve been around plenty of sets where there's a liaison there to protect against something specific. It became really obvious that there should be someone there to oversee and to be the liaison and protector and expert in sexuality. So, I went to the producers and creators with that and the director of HBO and they were incredibly receptive, and I think happy that it was a productive conversation instead of a lashing out conversation and they instantly hired Alicia Rodis; which again I didn’t even know that there was somebody already doing this, it was a much quicker process than I expected and now we have Alicia.
How Do You Decide To Appear Nude or Simulate Sex on Screen?
For Meade, like many performers, the decision to appear nude in a film or television show is not an easy one.
You ask yourself, is nudity or sexuality necessary here? Obviously here [with "The Deuce"] it is. It's about sex and pornography. [But even if] it's necessary that doesn’t mean that it isn’t taxing on your spirit or frightening to put yourself out there in that way.
Meade went on to explain the emotional toll of being contractually obligated to perform nude and simulate sex on screen.
Sometimes you get a script and you have to perform the sexual scene the next day or two days later and it does, regardless of being empowered in saying ‘yes I’ll do this,’ you start to feel a little bit trapped and owned. [On a TV show] you never know what's coming next and you're legally obligated to do this at this point.
However, with an intimacy coordinator on set, Meade has found she has become a better storyteller on screen.
I feel like [having a coordinator there] has allowed a lot more comedy in these really dark and sexual scenes that I think was always intended to be there. Because part of what this show is trying to show is just how unsexy this all is and how it’s almost laughable. But I think in the first season it was a lot harder to get there when you're kind of on the defense of trying to protect yourself, whereas now there's a lot more room to play because you're not focusing on how to make sure you're safe.
When is an Intimacy Coordinator Necessary?
We asked Meade if there were any previous experiences working on films or television where she felt she could have used an intimacy coordinator. Her response was that she could have used one on every set she worked on involving sexuality.
I mean I think it's the same as with date-rape culture, anything where it's so confusing, especially when you're in the moment of things, you can't always have the objectivity to know if you feel like your boundaries are being crossed.
Solutions Not Just Exposing in the Era of #MeToo
If we tried to get rid of every single person who has blood on their hands there's not going to be anyone left, including women, because we all knew about Harvey Weinstein, we were all involved, we've all known about this.
I feel like one of the things that's really needed and the next step to this movement is figuring out what that learning curve is and how we can actually change things from within instead of just trying to wipe the slate clean.
So you know, we can deal with how to give out the punishments and who gets to stay and who goes but we also need to change the actual system of how things work to eliminate a lot of those issues to begin with, regardless of the personality disorders of the many people who have gone through this industry in the first place.
What Else She Would Change
We asked Meade if there was anything else she would change. Her response? Don't force actors to blindly sign contracts involving nudity and sexuality without giving them the opportunity to understand the nuances and context of the story and what exactly will be required of them.
I did once lose a part because I didn't want to do full frontal nudity without a conversation. It wasn't even a "no," but they wanted a "yes" or "no" and I said I cant give a "yes" or "no" because I don't know what it's going to be like. I wanted to have a conversation about it and I know a lot of female actress friends who are still trying to get a break and still trying to get roles and a lot of the time they're even afraid to go to auditions because it says nudity required or sexuality required. You automatically feel like you're giving up a certain amount of power because you're saying "yes I will do this whatever it is, even if I haven't gotten the script."
I think that's something that needs to change and I'm not sure how to change it other than it not being allowed anymore. [E]ven a different framing of it [would be better].
Essentially, Meade is calling for greater clarity around issues of consent in the casting process. At the moment all the power lies with studios and networks. Actors and actresses can feel pressure to agree to contracts that are often exploitative.
That's something that has always bothered me, myself, but especially it breaks my heart when people who aren't in the position of being a regular on an HBO show, where I can actually say something. They just either skip the audition or go away feeling very used and not good about themselves.