| ON THE SET: BEHIND THE L WORD'S LOVE SCENES
by Jennifer Matos
Every week, L Word writers create magic on the screen as they bring relationships to life during scripted love scenes. What, exactly, goes in to the process of telling a story that cannot be told with words alone?
Astute viewers will note that the L Word sex scenes are not just “filler” used to occupy a fifty-minute time slot. Executive Producer and L Word Creator, Ilene Chaiken says “sex tells a story unto itself. It’s one of the biggest stories of our human lives. Our sexuality, our orientation, our relationship to sex, and the many ways we have sex are huge parts of who we are. But I won’t do a sex scene unless it’s telling a story. Each sex scene has a different style and method. The sex tells us who the characters are and what they are going through emotionally—it has to be specific.”
A prime example of what Chaiken has to say is beautifully, yet disturbingly demonstrated in the first season’s finale. There are six scenes in the entire episode, the most prominent of which being the one between “Bette” and “Tina”. Throughout the season, we witness problems with the pair from finding a sperm donor to the probability that Bette and Tina are falling out of love, and finally, the revelation of Bette’s betrayal. When Tina confronts Bette about her affair, the argument turns into uncharacteristically violent sex. This type of sex does not portray who Bette and Tina are, but mostly, it paints the portrait of who they have become, what their struggles have reduced them to, and their inability to assign words to it all.
What seems to the viewer as something so natural is actually a painstakingly composed effort. In an interview with The Advocate, Jennifer Beals shared some insight into these scenes and echoed Chaiken’s sentiments on storytelling. When asked how she successfully pulls off sex scenes, Beals said “I try to approach the scenes as just scenes—‘OK, what part of the story are we telling, and how do I continue telling that story through this scene and not just take it as a sex scene?’ And everything is choreographed completely. It’s like a dance number, and the art of it is making it all seem like it’s seamless and one thing.”
Although Beals talks of the art in making the scenes appear to be seamless, not all of these scenes are completed in one attempt. The sex scene between “Helena” and “Tina” in the swimming pool left an impression on actress Rachel Shelley, who portrays “Helena Peabody”. It wasn’t particularly the fact that the scene was taking place in a swimming pool, or even that the on-screen lovers were women, but that one of the actresses was pregnant. Shelley recounts, “The scene in the Chateau Marmont pool with Laurel was a difficult shot for me to do because it was my first full-on lesbian scene that I was shooting, and it was with a pregnant woman with very large breasts, and, well, that was quite a shock, really…Director Jeremy Podeswa choreographed all of the action. On camera, it is a bit of a shock. I can remember Jeremy, after the first take, saying ‘We need a bit more…’”
The ability to bring such personal stories and vulnerabilities on screen—despite the mechanics called for by the camera—is a testament to the strength, grace, and talent of the L Word cast.
L-Word.com is not affiliated with Showtime Inc. and no connection is expressed or implied.
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2006-07-17, 17:25:12 PM
Comments: Oh, boo hoo. Such a tough job acting out sex scenes with the likes of Jennifer Beals, Laurel Holloman, and Rachel Shelley. Such hard work. Really tough. And they get paid for this.
2006-07-17, 18:15:28 PM
Comments: It is funny when people talk about hard work, know your audience. Most of these woman work more than one job and wish sex was what they were paid for.
2006-07-17, 19:48:07 PM
Comments: I'm pretty grateful that during my workday at no point am I expected to get naked or partially naked with a fellow co-worker. Love scenes are great to the viewer as we get a look at the characters when they are quite vulnerable. For the actors it probably isn't nearly as fun.
2006-07-17, 20:51:26 PM
Comments: Trust me its fun for the acters 2 ,even if they dont want 2 say so ,just act Laurel Holloman.
2006-07-18, 09:29:21 AM
Comments: Ripley18 and catcat...something tells me not many people will accept your stereotyping the readers on this site (Ripley18) or all actors (catcat).
2006-07-18, 12:49:03 PM
Comments: Doing a sex scene is just like any other scene. You act. If you don't want to do it, you shouldn't become an actress. But I don't think it's 'fun' too. Just something that's part of the job.
2006-07-18, 21:52:50 PM
Comments: These articles are great!
2006-07-27, 00:03:51 AM
Comments: When I first came to watch L-word, I was skeptical despite the raving reviews I have heard from friends and critics. Later, I got to discover, in awe, the intensities of the actresses being able to portray the sentiments and love in the scenes, I began to wonder if they are lesbians too? Even later, I discovered they are not, which brings to one conclusion: they are awesome in their performances. The love scenes relate their own messages between each character: the intensities, the pain, the pleasure, the love etc. I'm small time filmmaker myself, what can I say? This is a good start, its ground breaking - finally, THE script.The love scene that left the most impression? Between Bette and Tina, the brief reunion coupled with the music "no other love" - it spelt love.
2006-07-28, 01:56:32 AM
Comments: ..after all i´m glad about the sex scenes..they´re decent and sexy. I think you can see and feel that it´s made by women. i like those scenes, it´s like the thing with the salt and the soup, and the most important aspect is, that it tells a story, explains the characters and shows that two women in love don´t need a man. or are waiting for a man to bring the final pleasure. i know that this is kind of common thinking.