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'The Deuce' actress Emily Meade on that 'volatile' scene, new intimacy coordinator

Emily Meade, who plays Lori, explains that season 2 turning point and talks feeling safer on set. 

Actress Emily Meade was behind HBO's recent decision

Actress Emily Meade was behind HBO's recent decision to hire an intimacy coordinator on the set of the NYC-filmed series, "The Deuce."   Photo Credit: HBO / Paul Schiraldi

Warning: “The Deuce” season 2 spoilers ahead.

Actress Emily Meade says she’s never shot a more emotional scene on the set of “The Deuce” than her last with actor Gary Carr -- a final “volatile” encounter between Lori and her pimp C.C.

“I never like to force tears when I’m acting,” says Meade, who portrays budding porn star, Lori. “But we did it all day, essentially him raping me, and it’s pretty horrific for everybody watching. As soon as we were done, I realized that it was our last time together. Me and Gary [Carr] hugged and I had a huge emotional breakdown and I was like, ‘dammit, why didn’t I do this on-screen?’”

Meade and Carr (C.C.) shared nearly all of their screen time in the ’70s-set New York City series’ first and second seasons. It was the realization of wrapping a scene with the actor she came to know so well that drew Meade to tears, rather than the graphic nature of the scene itself. 

“I’ve never, ever experienced something like that," the actress says of her emotional goodbye with Carr, which was mixed with laughter and tears. Saying goodbye "was so overwhelming.”

In their characters' season 2 arc, C.C.’s increasingly outdated role stretched throughout the script as Lori found fame in an industry the street-smart pimp knew little about.

The turmoil surrounding their crumbling relationship came to a head in “Nobody Has to Get Hurt,” when C.C. violently raped Lori before handing her over to the mob bosses.

C.C’s demise a loss for Lori

The scene came minutes before C.C. met his own demise at Vincent’s (James Franco) massage parlor, which Meade, 29, teases will impact Lori in a way fans might not expect.

“Yeah, she’s afraid of him, but I think she’s just as afraid of losing him and losing his love as she is of actually getting physically hurt by him,” she explains. “They have a very codependent relationship, but there’s a lot of love there.”

Looking ahead at the series’ third and final season, she adds: “At the end of the season, it seems like I’m moving on and go free, sort of, but to me it’s really important to show that this is still a huge loss . . . He’s ultimately her family. I don’t know, because I haven’t seen the scripts going forward, but I think she will have a sense of freedom and maybe go to the height of whatever this trajectory is as a porn star ... not to say that C.C. was stabilizing, but him controlling her, if anything, probably kept her back from certain demons that she was diving into. So I think and hope the writing aligns with that.”

‘We’re both very careful of each other.’

Meade says the bond between Lori and C.C. is rooted in a strong off-screen relationship between the two actors. She and Carr became close after meeting on the HBO set in 2016, which explains their ability to switch from giggles to high intensity within moments behind the scenes.

“We’ve had a lot of really, really, heavy, volatile scenes and I think people expect, especially in between takes, for it to be some kind of curious moment but we’re always laughing,” she says.

She and Carr would often run lines together before the cameras started rolling to ensure they were both comfortable with where the script took them.

“There’s just a complete ease that we’ve had with each other since the beginning. We can be standing their fully naked, laughing,” she says. “We know we’re not going to cross any boundaries. We’re both very careful of each other.”

The intimacy coordinator ‘changed everything’

Also working behind the scenes on that final shoot to ensure comfort was Alicia Rodis, HBO’s new intimacy coordinator, who was hired for season 2 by Meade’s request.

During any scene involving simulated intercourse or nudity, Rodis is available to review scripts and map out the requirements with actors. As Meade’s scenes often involve both nudity and violence, she says having the coordinator on set has already “changed things tremendously.”

“There’s a whole support system on those days when we have both a stunt choreographer and Alicia taking care of us whereas before it would just be a stunt coordinator and they, for no fault of their own, wouldn’t be thinking about the sexual setup,” she says.

Rodis has already implemented scene changes that may be minor to the viewer, but major to the cast — like making sure to work into the script a side turn away from the camera, or the slipping on of a shirt and tug of a blanket to limit unnecessary exposure.

“You’re still putting yourself out there, but to have the process of it feel protected, like it’s something you are in control of, has been very transformative and I think also allows for more colors to exist within the performances of sexual abuse,” she explains.

Meade says she was first inspired to request HBO provide an intimacy coordinator along with the start of the Time’s Up movement after realizing she was uncomfortable expressing concerns about vulnerable scenes without a mediator.  

“I don’t want to disappoint [the director],” she says. “ . . . I can tell [Rodis] if I have any notes or any issues and she can go back to the director and talk. She’s overseeing everything and providing physical protection and emotional support.”

In the months following Meade’s initial request, HBO announced intimacy coordinators will be hired on all of its forthcoming sets involving nudity and intimate scenes.

“The Deuce” airs its season 2 finale on Sunday, Nov. 4, at 9 p.m.

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