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HBO hires ‘intimacy coordinators’ to make the production of sex scenes safer

HBO announced today that it will have an “intimacy coordinator” on set for all its shows featuring sexually intimate scenes.

According to Rolling Stone, the “intimacy coordinator” will act as a mediator among actors, directors, producers, and crew. HBO already has an intimacy coordinator working on “The Deuce”, a series set in New York’s sex trade industry in the 1970s. The show’s pilot program was so successful that HBO confirmed on Thursday that an intimacy would be staffed on all of its TV series and film productions.

Alicia Rodis, the intimacy coordinator on “The Deuce”, reviews scripts, discusses intimate scenes before they’re recorded, and communicates with the actors individually. She is also responsible for establishing each actor’s personal boundaries to ensure “consent is informed and certain before we move forward”. Rodis essentially acts as a spokesperson for the actors if they have any issues with the script or production team.

While the intimacy coordinator has been a longstanding position in the theatre world, it is relatively new in film and television. The #MeToo movement played a role in sensitizing these issues, but its actress Emily Mead of “The Deuce” that pushed this motion forward. Meade had gone to HBO’s executives and expressed concern over the current on-set culture that didn’t have anyone to help actors who felt compelled to do scenes they felt uncomfortable with.

According to Meade, an intimacy coordinator is especially valuable on the set of the drama about the 1970s sex industry, where sex scenes are often featured. She says the position is similar to that of a stunt coordinator in a thriller/action movie.

In an interview on HBO’s website, Meade said:

“When it comes to sexuality, which is one of the most vulnerable things for all humans, men and women, there’s really no system. There’s never been a person required to be there to protect and bring expertise.”

The actress explained that Rodis would help provide performers with something to cover their private parts, knee pads, mouth spray, flavored lubricant, etc. These are all ways she says help the actors feel more comfortable with intimate scenes.

“It’s just having someone other than yourself to think about it,” Meade said.” Left to your own devices you’re just sort of doing what you do in real life. And that’s a problem if you don’t want it to feel like real life.”

Rodis says she is there to draw clear distinctions for the “sexuality between the characters and what’s actually happening between the actors,”, with consent being the top priority.

HBO has had a problematic past when it comes to sexual scenes, with some critics calling their network’s obsession with nudity ‘gratuitous’. The network had faced mass public criticism after a brutal rape scene in the fantasy drama “Game of Thrones”, which started a necessary discussion about sexual violence on screen.

“If your set doesn’t have an intimacy coordinator, at best, you might not be able to tell the story you want to tell,” said Rodis. “At worst, you have actors who are being physically assaulted.”