Meet HBO's sex scene coach

Alicia Rodis is HBO's "lead intimacy coordinator." This means that she choreographs and coaches actors in sex scenes. In The Atlantic, Kate Julian profiles Rodis and shares the, er, intimate details of the work. Here's a description from the set of The Deuce:

Ahead of the shoot, the episode’s director, Steph Green, explained her vision of the scene to Rodis, who called the actors to run through a proposed plan. Afterward, Rodis made sure that each actor’s contract had a rider stipulating that (Ryan) Farrell would touch (Emily) Meade’s clothed breasts, and Meade would grab Farrell’s crotch through his pants, under which he’d be wearing a prosthetic penis. The day of filming, Green, Rodis, and both actors met in private to prepare. (Green has long run trust- and chemistry-building exercises before intimacy scenes.) Before rehearsing the scene, she and Rodis asked the actors to hold each other’s gaze for a long interval. The actors also took turns inviting each other to touch agreed-upon body parts: hand, knee, thigh, and so on.

When it was time to shoot, the aforementioned prosthetic was produced. “It was an actual fake penis that they use in some of the scenes,” Farrell said. “I was like, ‘That’s pretty extreme!’ ” He put it in his pants. “Emily got to actually feel it when it was on top of me,” he said, “and when things like that start happening, it’s an icebreaker, and everybody loosens up a bit.”

Farrell and Meade got in the back of the limo, together with a cameraperson, while Rodis and Green watched the scene via monitor. (By long-standing tradition, TV and movie sex scenes are filmed on closed sets, without any unnecessary people milling around.) Early in the proceedings, they paused to fine-tune the way Farrell was touching Meade’s breast. “His hand was sort of flat,” Meade recalled. As a result, Rodis said, it looked as if Farrell’s character was pinning Lori down instead of caressing her. “If you give your hand just a little bit of a cup to it and bring it underneath,” she told Farrell, “it isn’t going to look like you’re forcing her down.” The small adjustment didn’t require added contact or pressure, Rodis said, but it made the scene into “an intimate moment and not something that he was pushing her into.” In the context of Lori’s story line, that was a crucial distinction. For all her sexual encounters up to this point in the series, this is the first one we see unfold entirely outside her pimp’s clutches—the first one she appears to actually want.

"The Endangered Sex Scene" (The Atlantic)

(You can watch The Deuce with a free 7-day trial of HBO for Amazon.)