After learning from the mistakes of Game of Thrones, intimacy coordinator Miriam Lucia joined House of the Dragon to work and prepare actors for their intimacy scenes.
Game of Thrones was infamous for its sex scenes, some of which made actors uncomfortable on set. Others, like Sean Bean, believe that the lack of intimacy coordinators kept the “spontaneity” between actors on the show.
Perhaps this is why House of the Dragon took steps to make sure the actors felt comfortable performing intimate scenes for the show.
“Game of Thrones had a negative reputation–which they’ll admit–in terms of the press and the #MeToo movement, and with Emilia Clarke and other actors talking about how difficult and gratuitous it could be at times, and how much pressure they felt,” Miriam Lucia, an intimacy coordinator for House of the Dragon, told Deadline recently.
Lucia, who worked on all 10 episodes of the big-budget prequel series, came on knowing that the production team and cast were aware of the intimacy involved with the show and were careful about what they agreed to. In an interview with Deadline, Lucia broke down her approach to creating an open dialogue with the cast and crew to deliver intimate scenes that pushed the story forward.
Intimacy Extends Beyond Sex Scenes
Lucia’s approach to creating a safe set was making sure that she was there, supporting the cast and crew throughout the entire process.
“It was about finding the balance for [showrunners] Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal. [Sexual content and nudity] is part of the show, it’s part of the essence of what it is, but we’re in a new era,” Lucia said. “I was invited at the very beginning to be involved in rehearsal, discussions, read-throughs so that everybody knew who I was, and it was all open.”
The first part of an intimacy coordinator’s job is to work out what it is the director wants and how the actor feels about that idea, establishing what their limits and boundaries are. Then, they work out the physicality and blocking of a scene with the coordinator during rehearsals.
Sometimes, directors will have a clear vision of what they want to see in the frame and how they want to block the shot. That’s all right, as long as everyone feels comfortable and safe during the scene.
The role of an intimacy coordinator is to ensure that the environment is safe and that the actors do not feel uncomfortable during intimate moments. Those intimate moments don’t stop at sex or nudity scenes.
House of the Dragon depicts many moments that are uncomfortable to view, like the birth scene in the first episode, incest, and talks of underage marriage.
Working as an Intimacy Coordinator on House of the Dragon
Game of Thrones' intimacy left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths and made some actors scared of what they would be getting into when they signed on to the project.
Emily Carey, who plays Alicent Hightower, expressed in a recent article with Newsweek that she was scared about her sex scene in episode four. She said that without an intimacy coordinator, she wouldn’t have known how to handle it.
Carey recalls watching the first few episodes of Game of Thrones and noting the violence toward women. “There’s a lot of violent sex and it made me nervous. I was like, ‘Oh God, what am I gonna have to do in this show?’” Carey said.
"And having that outlet of the intimacy coordinator, to be able to talk everything through and not be shunned, or not feel awkward, or not feel like 'Oh, this isn't your job. I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable but can I ask you...' it was never any of that, it was just that open dialogue,” Carey said of her work with Lucia on House of the Dragon.
Game of Thrones actor Sean Bean recently criticized the use of intimacy coordinators on set, saying they “spoil the spontaneity” when filming intimate scenes for TV and film. When asked about her thoughts on his comments, Lucia said that Bean probably doesn’t have an experience on the other side, or “maybe he’s had a bad experience of working with an intimacy coordinator.”
“All I would say is that in my experience so far, I don’t think it gets in the way of the creative process. I think it helps to enable the creative process because I think once you’ve worked out what the actors are comfortable with in terms of touch and consent, and what the movements are going to be, then you add the emotion to it.” Lucia said. “And then you find the freedom because you’re not scrambling and fumbling and trying to find it there and then in the moment.”
Actor Fabien Frankel, who plays Sir Criston, told Entertainment Weekly that he spent seven months with Lucia working on his character’s sex scene with Milly Alock’s Rhaenyra Targaryen.
“It was something we talked about over seven months. It was one of the first things I was very keen to talk about,” Frankel said. “The big thing for me was about it not feeling like another gratuitous, sweat-glistening-off-their back sex scene, ‘cause it’s not like that.”
Frankel continued, saying, “There’s an un-comfortability that one has to sit in, and there’s a discovery and understanding of each other’s bodies—not to mention the practical side of the whole thing.”
Intimacy coordinators are there to make sure that every actor feels safe and comfortable while in preparation for an intimate scene. They do not exist to stifle creative freedom and constantly dictate what an actor can and cannot do. Instead, they are there to coach, listen, and defend the boundaries of an actor.
While some argue that sex doesn't need to be shown on screen, I think intimacy and sex can be very effective in a story, especially in House of the Dragon when it is depicting female pleasure, the rules in place that dismiss sexual autonomy, and the intimacy rumors that fuel the plot.
When actors feel safe enough to perform during stimulated sex scenes or other intimate scenes, the scenes can be effective and reveal a new layer to the character's development. Lucia’s goal is to listen and help craft an entertaining and safe scene that works for the story that is being told.
Let us know what you think in the comments!