lizzy ca­plan talks about nu­dity, the fab­u­lous ’50s and play­ing a sex re­searcher in masters of sex.

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masters of sex sea­son 1 thurs­days m-net edge 21:00

Masters of sex (2013cur­rent) is a no-holds­barred de­pic­tion of the peo­ple who pi­o­neered re­search in sex­u­al­ity. while sex and nu­dity is common on tv to­day, back in the ’50s, the pe­riod when the show is set, sex was taboo – es­pe­cially for a sci­en­tific re­search project. in masters of sex, although ex­plicit, the re­search scenes aren’t gra­tu­itous. and at the heart of the ac­tion, ty­ing to­gether the sci­ence and the so­cial sides of the story with warmth and hu­mour is ac­tress lizzy ca­plan, who plays dr wil­liam masters’ (michael sheen) bril­liant re­search as­sis­tant vir­ginia john­son. the show’s based on real peo­ple. how did you go about bring­ing vir­ginia to life? she was a hustler and very scrappy. she did what she needed to do to get where she needed to go. back then it was es­pe­cially hard for a woman who was twice di­vorced with two kids, no ed­u­ca­tion and purely, by the strength of her per­son­al­ity, she was able to get where she ended up. do we know why she was so open? she was raised by a mother who was more open than most. she lost her vir­gin­ity in high school and was one of those girls lucky enough to have a healthy sex­ual out­look and she didn’t have hy­per re­li­gious par­ents. it was what she was into. the best move that he [wil­liam] made was recog­nis­ing that he needed somebody who could talk to peo­ple on a per­sonal level be­cause he was com­pletely in­ca­pable. she could talk about sex and con­nect with peo­ple. the role re­quires ex­plicit nu­dity. how do you han­dle that? i knew that i’d have no business go­ing after this role if i was go­ing to have any reser­va­tion about the nu­dity. i had to be com­fort­able to carry out what i knew was go­ing to be asked. any time that i felt any hes­i­ta­tion or fear, i’d try to get rid of it

be­fore i stepped onto the set be­cause my job is to walk out and han­dle it. i’m sure my character was ner­vous too be­cause she was called on to do some re­ally weird stuff. there’s a lot of sex with­out in­ti­macy and i re­alise, as an ac­tress in love scenes, how much i rely on that, kiss­ing or pre­tend­ing, any­thing to make it look re­al­is­tic. this strips you com­pletely bare… harsh light­ing, wires on you. we don’t kiss but i fig­ured if i can get through this, i can prob­a­bly han­dle any love scene in the fu­ture.

and did the au­di­tion re­quire nu­dity? luck­ily not. the pi­lot episode has it, so i knew it was com­ing. i’d read enough of the book be­fore go­ing into the au­di­tion, so i went in know­ing that i had to pre­tend i was 100% com­fort­able. i iden­ti­fied with the character a lot. do­ing that in real life is very dif­fer­ent from do­ing it in front of a room full of strangers. it’s shock­ingly not that bad. i’d done nu­dity be­fore. after you do it the first time, it be­comes less terrifying. you feel oddly in­vin­ci­ble.

vir­ginia is a rare character… she con­ducts her­self almost like a man in terms of sex for that era. she didn’t want a re­la­tion­ship. she wanted a lover and to keep it ca­sual. when women try that to­day, they’re given looks and it’s, “okay, but she’s re­ally in love with him.” there’s no room in so­ci­ety for women who, for lack of a bet­ter term, think like a man with sex. i’ve seen it in the present day and i try to mul­ti­ply that mind­set by 10 in my head to un­der­stand what it was like in the mid­west in the ’50s.

has this role lib­er­ated you? sure. i came in fairly lib­er­ated. i’ve al­ways been a tomboy. when i was lit­tle, i was like, “why can’t i do that just be­cause i’m a girl?” it bleeds out into all ar­eas of my life. that’s who vir­ginia is at her core. she was a fem­i­nist be­fore she knew that she was one. masters too. so much of their work ben­e­fited women. they lib­er­ated women with their sci­ence.

vir­ginia’s the friendly face to bill masters’ cold med­i­cal ex­te­rior.

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