Showtime is sexing up its prime-time with “Masters of Sex,” a new series that tells the story of how William Masters (Michael Sheen, “The Queen“) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan of “True Blood“) did break-through work in the 1950s that helped spark the sexual revolution, and, in doing so, helped people become more comfortable doing what should come naturally.
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Also starring Caitlin Fitzgerald, Nicholas D’Agosto, and Teddy Sears, “Masters of Sex” is an explicit, no-holds barred look at the groundbreaking research done by Masters and Johnson — from the sex devices used to actually watching couples go through the four stages of sex with wires attached to their bodies to monitor their vital signs.
“I never thought I would get used to having a naked woman in front of me masturbating … where I would almost not notice that they were there doing it anymore,” Sheen told reporters at the annual Television Critics Association summer press tour. “But I actually broke that barrier in this show.”
As the story of Masters and Johnson unfolds, the series can’t help but focus on sex and sexuality — to the point of providing facts and statistics — but it is also a character study about the challenges that human beings face as they try to connect and develop intimacy with a partner.
Click on the Photo Below to Watch the Pilot Episode of “Masters of Sex”:
What do you reveal about yourself? What do you try to keep hidden? And why do you try to keep it hidden? These are some of the questions that Sheen says the series poses. “Sex seems to be a conduit for any area that you feel shame about, anything that makes you feel different and disconnected from people,” he said. “And, hopefully, by doing a show about this in the way that we are trying to do it, it allows people to not feel so disconnected… [to feel] a little less shameful… I think, if it can do that, then it’s done its job.”
Caplan joked that she learned that “people’s masturbatory techniques are a lot like snowflakes, everybody does it differently.” But on the more serious side, she says that the reason she is so enamored with the character of Virginia Johnson is because Johnson made it possible for generations of women to not feel dirty for asking questions about sex.
“Really, sometimes all you need is somebody to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you, that you are normal,” she said. “Before Masters and Johnson, nobody was telling women that. It was always their fault. And that’s some bullsh*t.”
When it came to shooting the sex scenes for “Masters,” it was just as awkward as you’d expect, according to the actors, because not only are they naked, they’re naked … with electrodes.
“After every take it looked like a bird’s nest,” described Sears, who also admitted that he was a bit embarrassed during filming.
“This was my first sex scene. It was a little bit scary for me,” he saya. “It gets decidedly un-sexy after a while, but it was a lot of fun. It was a very safe environment.”
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Depicting the science of sexuality also leads to some comical moments because as executive producer Michelle Ashford reminds us, “Sex can be funny.”
“I mean, if you put a dildo in front of [guest star] Beau Bridges’ face, people are going to laugh,” Caplan added. “Some of the situations that we’re depicting on this show are ridiculous, but they’re factually accurate, and it’s what they really did to come to the conclusions that they came to,” she continued. “But I do think that there are definitely moments of levity in this show and I think in dramatic pieces, those moments of levity are especially appreciated.”
“Masters of Sex” premieres on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 10/9c on Showtime.