In the past few years, intimacy coordinators have become widely accepted on movie and TV sets, although there are still many people who don’t understand their role. Mirian Lucia, the intimacy coordinator on House of the Dragon, explained it to Deadline.
“[Sexual content and nudity] is part of the show, it’s part of the essence of what it is, but we’re in a new era,” Lucia said. “I was invited at the very beginning to be involved in rehearsals, discussions, read-throughs, so that everybody knew who I was, and it was all open.”
"My job is to ensure that there’s a safe environment. And that was apparent on House Of The Dragon. It was very clear that the way the sex scenes were going to be approached, the way that the cast were going to be informed of what was expected of them, was different. Things were not just thrown in during the shoot."
For instance, Episode 4 featured a lot of sex; that’s the one where Rhaenrya (Milly Alcock) goes to a brothel with her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) and has sex with Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel), all while Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) has sex with her much older husband (Paddy Considine) after he summons her to his room in the dead of night.
“The first part is mental and psychological, working out what it is the director wants and how the actor feels about that, and working out what the limits and boundaries are. Where is the consent? And then, in a rehearsal, we work out the physicality and blocking of the scene,” Lucia said.
"If I’m on set and sense that somebody is finding it difficult — as Emily Carey expressed in her recent article with Newsweek about her sex scene in episode four — you make sure that you’re checking in with them, and that you’re spending time with them. I’m not a psychologist, and I’m not a therapist. I’m an actor, who is also an acting coach, who became an intimacy coordinator. I still do all three. So, I think my work as an acting coach helps in terms of me understanding how a particular actor works, and how they’re processing information, and how they’re then putting that information into their physical action, and whether it makes sense.Emily was only 18 when we did that scene [in which her character is made to have sex with her much older husband]. It was also about talking Paddy [Considide, who plays King Viserys Targaryen] through the whole thing, and checking that he was okay. He has a child Emily’s age after all."
Sean Bean worries that intimacy coordinators could “ruin” sex scenes
It’s true that Carey did praise Lucia for her work, but the intimacy coordinator mentioned that some of the older actors on set — the ones who hadn’t worked with intimacy coordinators before — could be a little nervous around her, not quite getting what her job was. And then there’s Game of Thrones veteran Sean Bean, who lamented that “the natural way lovers behave would be ruined by someone bringing it right down to a technical exercise.”
“I get why he said that, because he doesn’t have the same experience of it, and because this is a new function on sets,” Lucia said. “People don’t really know what it is that we do. Some question why we’re there. It can still be weird for people who wonder if I’m checking up on whether they’re adhering to the rules of a closed set. But often my work has been done beforehand behind the scenes, talking to the director, the producer, the actors, even lawyers if necessary, in terms of waivers and things that need to happen. And if there’s an issue or a change, or something becomes physically uncomfortable, or mentally uncomfortable, we shift it, but at that point, the work has largely been done, and hopefully it’s seamless. We need to be ready for the shoot date but also to know there won’t be any ugly surprises.”
"I love him as an actor, and I’ve just watched Marriage: he’s great in that. I just think he is a man of a certain age, who has been in this industry for a very long time, and he doesn’t have an experience of the other side. Or maybe he’s had a bad experience of working with an intimacy coordinator. All I would say is that in my experience so far, I don’t think it gets in the way of the creative process. I think it helps to enable the creative process, because I think once you’ve worked out what the actors are comfortable with in terms of touch and consent, and what the movements are going to be, then you add the emotion to it. And then you find the freedom, because you’re not scrambling and fumbling and trying to find it there and then in the moment.I think of the spontaneity as what we do as actors. We have to pretend that we have never done this before. We have to suggest that everything is spontaneous. You have a script, so you don’t come out with these words spontaneously. You have to work on it so that it appears to be spontaneous. That’s where it doesn’t make sense to me, what he said."
New episodes of House of the Dragon air Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.
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