Stars de­bate and tease


NEW YORK — Do­minic West and Ruth Wil­son don’t get to do much laugh­ing in their roles on the Show­time drama “The Af­fair,” in which they star as a cou­ple caught up in an adul­ter­ous ro­mance that has dev­as­tat­ing im­pli­ca­tions. The English ac­tors spend much of their screen time look­ing tor­mented, but in per­son for a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion about the Golden Globe-win­ning se­ries and its post­mod­ern take on re­la­tion­ships, both ac­tors were quick with the jokes — par­tic­u­larly ones aimed at each other.

‘I think monogamy is a tough one. I’m not sure we’re monog­a­mous peo­ple, re­ally.’


“The Af­fair” uses mul­ti­ple view­points to tell the same story. Did this ap­proach ap­peal to you as per­form­ers?

Wil­son: Def­i­nitely, it’s con­stantly sur­pris­ing. It sets up one thing and then it turns it on its head in the sec­ond half. I thought the abil­ity to play two or three ver­sions of your­self was ex­cit­ing.

West: I’m amazed it’s not done more of­ten, re­ally. It’s such an ob­vi­ous tru­ism that there is very lit­tle ob­jec­tive re­al­ity, es­pe­cially in per­sonal re­la­tion­ships.

Have you had ex­pe­ri­ences in which your mem­ory of an event di­verges com­pletely from some­one else’s, the way your char­ac­ters’ rec­ol­lec­tions of­ten do?

Wil­son: I’ve be­come more con­scious of how you em­bel­lish a mem­ory; you re­mem­ber some­thing and then you keep telling that story, and as you tell it more and more, you em­bel­lish it more and more, and it be­comes more and more col­or­ful and prob­a­bly not any­thing like what ac­tu­ally hap­pened.

My fa­ther doesn’t have any mem­ory be­fore the age of 8. It was quite trau­matic for him grow­ing up. Peo­ple delete the past if they don’t want to go back there.

West: When I was 8, we were in two cars, and my fa­ther, brother and one of my sis­ters were in the front car and they were very badly in­jured. The next day I had no rec­ol­lec­tion of what hap­pened.

Has work­ing on this show changed your thoughts about mar­riage or monogamy?

West: I don’t know if this is true, but the Amer­i­can at­ti­tude to in­fi­delity seems a lot more, I don’t know, con­ser­va­tive than I thought. But then any­thing you say about Amer­ica, the op­po­site is also true be­cause it’s such a vast place. But that struck me. This show prob­a­bly wouldn’t be un­der­stood in France.

Wil­son: They have five mis­tresses


West: I think monogamy is a tough one. I’m not sure we’re monog­a­mous peo­ple, re­ally.

Wil­son: My par­ents are still to­gether, and it’s made me ap­pre­ci­ate how hard it is for a cou­ple to re­main faith­ful and to stay to­gether. Eco­nom­i­cally, ev­ery­thing has changed. Women have got much more in­de­pen­dence and don’t have to re­main in mar­riages for eco­nomic rea­sons. So the whole idea of love is chang­ing. I think that’s why there’s an in­crease in di­vorce, be­cause women can af­ford to be on their own. That, and we’re liv­ing longer.

West: It was fine when we all died at 50. What kind of con­ver­sa­tions did you have about the sex scenes in the show?

Wil­son: Ev­ery job you do when there’s sex in it, it’s vul­ner­a­ble for ev­ery­one, so you want to make sure the scene is jus­ti­fied, as any scene should be jus­ti­fied and not just in there to please the bosses.

West: I was watch­ing “Game of Thrones” the other night, and I did find my­self watch­ing it be­cause there might be a sex scene com­ing up, mainly be­cause I’m an old perv. But I think that’s quite re­cent where ac­tresses — it’s just ex­pected that you get naked and there’s a lot of sex in a show. And I don’t think that’s a very good thing.

Wil­son: The build-up is in­ter­est­ing, be­cause that’s where the chem­istry is. It’s an­ti­cli­mac­tic when you get to the sex. It feels like there’s a weird de­sire to have them in when I’m not sure that’s what the au­di­ence ac­tu­ally wants.

West: Well, I think it is. I re­mem­ber hear­ing a gaffer say­ing about a show, “That won’t last be­cause there’s no sex in it.” And he was prob­a­bly right. What was women’s lib­er­a­tion all about?

Wil­son: I saw the very first episode of “Game of Thrones.” And I was, like, whoa. I just felt for [Emilia Clarke], be­cause she was just naked, top­less the whole way through. I thought, that’s her first job … I won­der how much choice she felt like she had.

West: It doesn’t hap­pen with men. You are not ex­pected to get your … out.

Wil­son: You’re not al­lowed to! You’re not al­lowed to see it on TV. Women should have a choice and be al­lowed to ex­press that choice if they don’t want to get their breasts out. There’s an as­sump­tion around it, which I think is un­fair. [To West] You’re a rar­ity in that sense.

West: Hav­ing to get naked? I al­ways seem to get naked. I just did a film with a Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret model, and I was the one who got bloody naked. She was fully clothed the whole time, and there’s me with my arse out.

Carolyn Cole Los An­ge­les Times

ENGLISH AC­TORS Do­minic West and Ruth Wil­son, who play a cou­ple caught up in an ex­tra­mar­i­tal li­ai­son with mul­ti­ple view­points in Show­time’s “The Af­fair,” find the Amer­i­can at­ti­tude to­ward in­fi­delity to be an in­ter­est­ing topic.


RUTH WIL­SON por­trays Ali­son and Do­minic West plays Noah in the Show­time drama “The Af­fair.”

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