What was it like meeting Michael?
Of course at the beginning I was intimidated by him. He’s a fancy actor. He went to a very different type of acting school than I did, which is the school of hard knocks. You know what I mean? He’s going to be knighted and some shit. He has honorary degrees. It’s a very different situation, as he likes to point out to me all the time. [Laughs.] It’s almost like the producers knew exactly what they were doing though because it really echoes the dynamic between Masters and Johnson. He was an established person and she didn’t have a college degree. But they really end up complementing each other very, very well.
Masters and Johnson wind up engaging in the research, which is to say having sex for science. Did you and Michael do anything specifically to get comfortable quickly?
The intimidation factor went away fairly quickly. The truth is actors spend a lot of time between sets just really trying to make each other laugh. Michael’s as good as any of the comedy morons that I know and love. We’ve become extremely close friends over the course of this series, and I’m super, super grateful for that because I honestly can’t imagine a more disgusting thing to have to do every day than go to work on this show with somebody that I really did not like.
You’ve said your character reminds you of your mother. How so?
My mom passed away when I was 13, so our conversations about sex were pretty limited at that time, but any question I had or any curiosity about my own body was completely encouraged and met with no judgement whatsoever. It led me to have nothing but a series of completely healthy relationships with men over the course of my life. Or, if they were unhealthy, they were not unhealthy because of that. In that regard, I honestly consider myself completely lucky because it took everybody I knew a little bit longer to sort of find their own sexual security.
In making the show, did you learn anything about fifties sexual mores that you didn’t already know?
Yeah, in the fifties, if you could not achieve vaginal orgasm through sex with your husband, you were considered frigid and you were broken. What Masters and Johnson figured out was that clitoral and vaginal orgasms are actually identical, which if we think about it, is such a liberating idea. They also figured out that women were more the sexual athletes over men. Male orgasm is so much more valued, but women are the ones who can have more than one orgasm. Men need this period to just chill out in between and women’s bodies are actually built to do it longer and more often.
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