The series was directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald, and adapted by Alice Birch, Mark O’Rowe, and Rooney herself, which might explain why it hews so faithfully to the novel. Rooney has sometimes likened writing sex scenes to writing dialogue, in the sense that every beat counts. The same care is evident onscreen, where every fumbling and tentative caress seems heavy with meaning. These scenes were achieved with the help of Ita O’Brien, an intimacy coördinator who also worked on Netflix’s “Sex Education.” O’Brien helped the actors to discuss things frankly, and to avoid euphemisms. “She would say, ‘We’ll just discuss exactly what the emotional beats are here,’ ” Edgar-Jones said. “The whole point of those scenes is never to have just a moment for the sake of it. They’re always carrying on some form of narrative.”
O’Brien also helped with the physical logistics, Mescal added. Sometimes, to get a scene right, Mescal would need to hold himself in a kind of plank above Edgar-Jones for minutes on end, his arms locked out, sweat dripping from his nose. (“That was really great,” Edgar-Jones joked.) “There was this wonderful thing where she would use her hands,” Mescal said, of O’Brien, holding up his hands to demonstrate. “She’d be like, ‘So, Paul, I need you to give more thrust!’ ” Edgar-Jones made the same motion with her hands, and they both burst into laughter.
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