Outlander stars say having an intimacy coordinator for the first time took pressure off sex scenes
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It's no secret that Outlander is sexy.
The Starz drama has won legions of fans for its steamy central romance between Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) — and being a show on premium cable, that romance includes a lot of explicit sex.
But shockingly, the drama never employed an intimacy coordinator until season 6, which has just begun airing. "Those things just weren't available," explains Balfe of when they first began shooting the series. "Or if it was available, it just wasn't commonplace."
As movements like #MeToo have driven change in the industry, that has included a push for intimacy coordinators on set to help actors navigate scenes involving nudity and intimate moments. "With fight scenes, you have a fight director," adds Heughan. "You choreograph it, you know exactly what's going to happen, and then, it allows the actor to then explore and to do their job — to act."
Bridgerton used an intimacy coordinator in season 1 for their heaps of sexcapades, and now, Outlander is finally employing one, too. It was Heughan, actually, who introduced Vanessa Coffey to production. But the entire cast and crew welcomed her presence on set.
"I realized how much we were thrown into the deep end," Heughan reflects. "There was a lot of pressure on us as less experienced actors to get it right. Each year as it went past or each season, I felt the pressure. It landed on us. [Vanessa] has given us the tools to explore those scenes, to take out the actor and take us out of it and approach it through a character way. But also to facilitate the scenes, because they are awkward to shoot."
Balfe expands, adding, "We'd been put in a position where it was [Sam] and I really deciding what was going to be in the scenes. It's a constant negotiation between the director and the producers and how much do the producers want versus how much we feel comfortable with, and so, instead of focusing on what the characters were doing in the scenes, you had to go through this whole advocation for ourselves and be like, 'Well, I don't really want you to show this much.' It's never comfortable conversations, and sometimes it can cause tensions."
Now, the cast had a go-between, who could help alleviate those tensions and communicate any uneasiness in a less fraught fashion. "It's really important for people to have a voice and having that middleman gives you a little bit of a blanket barrier," adds Sophie Skelton, who plays Brianna Fraser, herself a figure in numerous sex scenes and one very intense rape scene. "It does protect you a bit, because you can give your honest opinions to that person and they can relay them, but they've not necessarily come from you. That means that you can have a little bit more of a discussion and more control over how your body is handled and put out there."
For Balfe, having that presence on set was especially essential this season when her own pregnancy caused even more self-consciousness about exposing her body onscreen. "She's able to come in and really use language that neutralizes it for everybody," Balfe says. "She liaisons between us and the producers or the director as what's going to be acceptable for everybody. Especially this season, I was pregnant, and it was very vulnerable for me to put myself in those situations. It was not the easiest, and to have her there advocating and to be a support was amazing."
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