A TV show came out in 2020 that — quarantine or no quarantine — made us all sad and horny. We're talking, of course, about the BBC and Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney's best-selling novel Normal People, starring Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones. Since there's been enough sad this year to last us a lifetime, let's talk about sex instead. The show's intimacy coordinator, Ita O'Brien (founder of Intimacy on Set and author of the Intimacy on Set guidelines, which protect performers during scenes that involve sex or nudity), takes us inside the creation of those steamy scenes.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before we get into Normal People, tell me about the role of an intimacy coordinator and why it's so necessary?
ITA O'BRIEN: Think about it this way, if you're reading a script and there's a waltz, you realize people don't necessarily know how to waltz, so we need a specialist choreographer to teach that. Or if we're going to put swords in someone's hands, of course, people don't just know how to do sword play, we're going to need a practitioner. Then there was this gap. Just like a waltz, a sex scene is also a body dance and just like a fight, there's a risk and the risk is it makes someone vulnerable about being naked or being touched in places that aren't suitable. There was this sense that, well, everybody does sex, so we don't need to teach technique. Then there's the realization of, actually, no, people are vulnerable. And, as with any choreographed dance, you need a specialist practitioner to help everybody talk about it properly and professionally and not gloss over consent. Consent is needed both for touch and nudity, and of simulated sexual content. So there's need for a prep practitioner. Just like a choreographer, that practitioner puts clear choreography into place and brings in techniques. Of course, at the beginning, I had no idea that I'd end up helping to create a role of a practitioner that's now known as the intimacy coordinator.
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