Samatha Morton has praised her show Harlots for approaching sex scenes with a “female gaze”, adding that she had had “awful” experiences that reduced her to tears on previous projects like ITV’s Band of Gold.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press, the Oscar-nominated actress said that the Harlots cast were treated with “a huge amount of dignity” while filming sex scenes for the show, in which Morton plays a brothel madam.
“I think we were a little bit different in how we approached shooting sex scenes,” she said. “This is all from a female gaze, and therefore one would hope, and I would hope, certainly what I saw, was that the actors were treated with a huge amount of dignity.”
She stressed that when she was a younger actress, filming sex scenes was a “very different” experience, specifically citing the 1990s ITV crime drama Band of Gold, in which she played a 15-year-old sex worker.
“It was very different when I was on Band of Gold. Very different. And so now me, all these years later, I’m on a set going, ‘That seems dignified and decent’… [Filming sex scenes for Harlots] was respectful – cold, it was a cold set so there were a lot of coats around! – we didn’t need intimacy coaches as far as I’m aware and didn’t have them on that show. But I think moving forward, they are definitely needed in our industry. Absolutely. I’ve had awful experiences as an actress when I was younger.”
She revealed that while working on Band of Gold, she would be “sobbing” in her trailer in anticipation of sex scenes, and that the team behind the show “just didn’t know any better”.
“On Band of Gold – you’ve got to remember it was a very long time ago – I was 16 and I would be sobbing in my trailer because of certain things I’d have to do. And the really lovely wardrobe girls would say, ‘Listen, if you just put corn plasters on your nipples, then you won’t have to show your boobs’.
“Because I was just 16, and some of the scenes Tracy had to do – the writing was quite brilliant but very vague, it would say, ‘Tracy is giving a blowjob’. And now I’m a director in my own right, I know that when I approach directing, you don’t always have to show everything [while filming sex scenes], if that makes sense. There are ways to do it.
She continued, “In hindsight, the way of some of what I had to do on Band of Gold was navigated [by people] that just didn’t know any better. There was no malice, they were just treating me like another worker bee, just working, everybody’s working. They wouldn’t say, ‘Thirty crew, all male pretty much, could you leave the set please?’… I was very vulnerable.”
Harlots will air on BBC Two from Wednesday 5th August at 9pm, starting with a double-bill. Series one and two will air back-to-back.
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