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If there's one part of the job that many actors are uncomfortable with, it's sex scenes. Judging by the way a lot of stars talk about them, love scenes and other intimate scenes can feel, at best, awkward, and at worst, violating. But, one actor just shared that, fortunately, she has always felt in control and at ease in those moments. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Big Little Lies star Shailene Woodley shared that sex scenes have never made her feel uncomfortable, and said that it's because she's always sure to cover her bases before filming even starts. Read on to see what Woodley had to say and to learn more about strides that have been made in the industry to help everyone feel safe at work.
Woodley says being "very vocal" about what she needs has helped her.
The Hollywood Reporter interview notes that Woodley's 2020 film Endings, Beginnings features her character in multiple involved love scenes.
"I've never felt uncomfortable doing intimate scenes because I'm very vocal," Woodley explained to the outlet. "I always sit down and talk with the director, the other actor. We always have conversations of, 'How are you planning on shooting it? Is nudity necessary? Is it going to distract from the scene, add to the scene?' We know exactly what the boundaries are. And I've never been in a situation where those things haven't been honored."
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Of course, actors being vocal isn't always enough on its own.
Woodley speaking up for herself is important, but film and TV sets have also increasingly been using intimacy coordinators to help actors feel comfortable during sex scenes and to be sure that no one is rushed into anything they haven't agreed to. Using intimacy coordinators became more widespread following the Me Too movement.
"Intimacy coordinators play an important role on set," explains the SAG-AFTRA website. "An intimacy coordinator is an advocate, a liaison between actors and production, and a movement coach and/or choreographer in regards to nudity and simulated sex and other intimate scenes."
Actors have spoken out in support of intimacy coordinators.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in April, Ewan McGregor shared that he worked with an intimacy coordinator for the first time while filming the miniseries Halston.
"This was the first thing I've ever done where we had an intimacy coordinator," McGregor said. "It was such a relief. It's about f****** time. The temptation in my experience is just for the director to go, 'Just do whatever.' It's embarrassing. That's not fair on either actor to do that."
Michaela Coel, the creator and star of the acclaimed drama I May Destroy You, thanked her intimacy coordinator, Ita O'Brien, in her BAFTA's acceptance speech for Best TV Actress earlier this year. "Thank you for your existence in our industry," Coel said (via Insider), "for making the space safe, for creating physical, emotional, and professional boundaries so that we can make work about exploitation, loss of respect, about the abuse of power without being exploited or abused in the process."
As for Woodley, she's shared that she has mixed feelings about intimacy coordinators.
In an April 2020 interview with the New York Times, Woodley said that she wasn't huge on working with intimacy coordinators, personally, but understood their purpose for others.
"For me, intimacy coaches make me uncomfortable because it feels like another set of eyes that I don't need," she said (via CinemaBlend). "But I have no problem stopping production when I'm uncomfortable, and I don't think that's the case for a lot of people, so I think it's wonderful that there's a lifeline that people can lean on to know they'll be protected. That being said, the best thing a director could do is ask an actor right off the bat: 'What are you comfortable with? What are your boundaries?'"