It’s com­pli­cated

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - FRONT PAGE - By Ann Olden­burg

WHEN last we saw sex re­searchers Wil­liam Masters and Vir­ginia John­son, they were shar­ing a mo­ment straight out of a ro­man­tic com­edy: It was rain­ing. Bill had just ar­rived at Vir­ginia’s place. She opened the door. And he de­clared he couldn’t live with­out her. It was a sweet end­ing for Sea­son 1 of the Show­time drama. So Sea­son 2 (Sun­day, Movie Cen­tral, check list­ings for times) kicks off with Masters and John­son hap­pily in love with each other? “Hardly,” says ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Michelle Ash­ford. While much is known about the real-life ca­reers and events in the lives of Masters and John­son, Ash­ford says the se­ries is cre­at­ing much of the emo­tion and chem­istry that siz­zled — and fiz­zled — be­tween the two. “One thing we know for sure: They didn’t spend a ton of time in any kind of ro­man­tic, bliss­ful state,” says Ash­ford. “They were a very cu­ri­ous cou­ple. It be­comes clear that they were never in the same spot emo­tion­ally at the same time. If one had just said, ‘I love you and you love me; let’s go for­ward hap­pily,’ the story would have been very dif­fer­ent. They were very com­pli­cated.” One fall­out of the com­pli­cated cou­ple is that this sea­son, which fea­tures new stars in­clud­ing Sarah Sil­ver­man, Court­ney B. Vance, Keke Palmer and Danny Hus­ton, might of­fer less sex. Less sex? “Some­one on our crew said, ‘I think there is less sex this year,’” says Ash­ford, who con­cedes the crew would know since they have to stand all day and watch it. Michael Sheen, who plays Bill Masters, says, “From my point of view, we see more. We cer­tainly start to have more fo­cus on what’s hap­pen­ing be­tween him and Vir­ginia.” Lizzy Ca­plan, who plays Vir­ginia John­son, says it was eas­ier to get into the “mind-set” of her char­ac­ter with a sea­son un­der her belt, so to speak. In “Sea­son 1 we were fig­ur­ing out who these people were, who we wanted them to be on­screen. Sec­ond sea­son, even though there was al­most a year be­tween, it was eas­ier to switch back into that mode.” But get­ting naked is never a breeze. “I feel as com­fort­able as a per­son can feel do­ing some­thing so strange,” says the ac­tress. “There was only one mo­ment this sea­son where I was in my trailer think­ing, “I just don’t want to do this. I want to run away.” It wasn’t like I was hang­ing upside down from the ceil­ing. It was just fear. And I know I have to do it, and it’s the safest pos­si­ble en­vi­ron­ment. I let it pass and got it done.” Be­cause Masters was kicked out of his hospi­tal in the first sea­son, his ca­reer is in flux, and that also af­fects their re­la­tion­ship, as she re­lies on be­ing part of his work. “Things get rough for Vir­ginia,” says Ca­plan. “The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Bill and Vir­ginia gets a whole lot darker. These are two people who re­ally get to know the depths of each other in ways that no­body knows. He shares with Vir­ginia stuff no­body has ever heard come out of his mouth be­fore. They come tan­gled up with each other, and some­times it’s lovely and some­times it’s not.” While Masters is find­ing his way in the pro­fes­sional world, sin­gle mom John­son has to bide her time. “She’s a sur­vivor, a bit of a cock­roach, if you will,” says Ca­plan. “Vir­ginia is al­ways set­ting up backup plans for her­self.” Some of those plans re­volve around the story line be­tween cancer-stricken Dr. Lil­lian DePaul (Ju­lianne Ni­chol­son). “It gets bru­tal,” says Ca­plan, adding that those scenes are some of her favourites this sea­son in a job she loves. “I’m be­yond happy,” she says. “Happy doesn’t even be­gin to de­scribe it. I rec­og­nize daily how lucky I am that I’m a com­edy ac­tress that got a shot at a real dra­matic role on a show that’s rich and com­plex. The pinch-me mo­ment has yet to wear off.” And maybe it won’t for many years. Sea­son 2 cov­ers 1958 into 1961, the be­gin­nings of the sex­ual revo­lu­tion. Masters and John­son didn’t marry un­til 1971. “Our show is go­ing to change a lot ev­ery year,” says Ash­ford. “It’s be­cause their lives changed very rad­i­cally.”

SHOW­TIME

Teddy Sears, Rose McIver

Beau Bridges Caitlin Fitzger­ald, Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen, Lizzy Ca­plan

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