PaleyFest 2014: ‘Masters of Sex’ Cast Interviews
After only one season, “Masters of Sex” has earned a night in the annual Paleyfest lineup from the Paley Center for Media. Of course, Showtime quickly greenlit a second season to continue the story of William Masters and Virginia Johnson’s clinical study of sexual intercourse.
We managed to speak with several of the “Masters of Sex” cast members during last night’s red carpet arrival at the PaleyFest.
First up, Virginia Johnson herself, Lizzy Caplan, gave us some quick feedback on the show’s accuracy
CraveOnline: How much better do you know Virginia Johnson now than you did when the show started?
Lizzy Caplan: I know her one year better. I think I know my interpretation of her way better. I feel much more comfortable in her skin, sort of like I’m now part owner of the story we’re trying to tell even though it’s clearly not me in real life.
Of course we know there’s artistic license, but did Virginia have a friendly relationship with Libby Masters in real life?
Lizzy Caplan: She did. That’s actually one of the more fascinating parts of the story. They had a pretty close friendship and this was all going on. We think that Libby was probably aware but maybe not ‘til later on, but nobody was asking those questions so everybody just kind of went along with it. Yeah, they were dear friends.
Caitlin Fitzgerald was one of the first interviews I ever did for “Masters of Sex,” back at their first Television Critics Association presentation. She plays Masters’ wife Libby, who in season one suffered a miscarriage, and became close friends with Virginia.
CraveOnline: What is new for Libby in season two?
Caitlin Fitzgerald: She gets to kinda go to the dark side a little bit which is exciting. We see a whole new dimension of her, not necessarily a likable one.
Darker than when she suffered a miscarriage?
Caitlin Fitzgerald: You know, the miscarriage sort of happened to her and this is her being an agent of darkness. That’s more dramatic than it needed to be, but taking actions that are not necessarily likable.
Is this some artistic license or does it stem from the real history of Libby Masters?
Caitlin Fitzgerald: We don’t know that much about Libby so a lot of what happens to her is artistic license.
Is it prompted by the continuing study, or by other factors?
Caitlin Fitzgerald: Both, I would say.
Can Libby’s friendship with Virginia sustain the study that they’re still trying to do?
Caitlin Fitzgerald: We’ll find out. In a weird way, I think Virginia and Libby really need each other. Certainly I think Virginia is Libby’s only friend in a weird way, so while the study is hard for Libby, she also really cares about and needs fulfillment in her life.
Am I asking the right questions since you can’t really answer them all ?
Caitlin Fitzgerald: Yes, precisely. [Laughs]
As head writer on “Masters of Sex,” Michelle Ashford had most of the answers I was looking for. She wasn’t spoilery, any more than one could read the history of Masters and Johnson. She also had some insight into the appeal of William Masters among female viewers.
CraveOnline: I think we can all imagine how messy a study like this can be. Can you verify from your actual research how messy it got for Masters and Johnson as quickly as it got on the show?
Michelle Ashford: It got messy, I suspect, in terms of their personal relationship and how it got melded in the most curious way with that study, it took about a year. So I think they worked together for a year before it shifted into this other thing. So we condensed it a little bit but not too terribly.
Even as far as their study participants might get involved with each other?
Michelle Ashford: It’s funny. A lot of this we have to surmise because they destroyed a lot of their records, which is of course a tragedy for us. Sometimes we have to just sort of imagine. We have a very good biography that Thom Maier wrote that we based a lot of this on and filled with fact, but there are big holes in there as well. So sometimes we just have to think, well, how would it have gone? We do have signposts along the way but then we have to fill in.
A lot of my female friends are really attracted to Masters. Are you surprised he became the sex symbol of the show?
Michelle Ashford: No, because now I know Michael [Sheen] and he’s just immensely charming and winning and complicated and smart. No, I think he’s sort of catnip actually. I think what he is is not necessarily traditionally handsome but as a result of his intelligence at the fact that he is a very good looking man, I think he’s a very refreshing kind of sex symbol.
I think a number of my friends think they could have fixed him too.
Michelle Ashford: Oh yes, well, every woman, don’t they? The damaged man.
What can we look forward to in season two?
Michelle Ashford: We got a different direction. Masters has left that hospital. He has to strike out on his own. What does that mean? He gets into a very curious part of the St. Louis community. We explore the African-American community this year. It’s very different. It’ll look very different.
Did Masters and Johnson actually have African-American participants?
Michelle Ashford: They did, they had a few and they were trying to figure out what to do with that and what it meant, so it becomes this very curious journey and the world is changing. St. Louis actually was the place, Martin Luther King had come there in 1957 and said St. Louis was doing the most impressive work in terms of race and what was happening there. So it starts to bubble around their lives a lot more than it certainly did the first year.
How far after the finale does the season premiere pick up?
Michelle Ashford: It starts pretty quickly. Pretty much immediately. So we spend some time there and we answer some questions and things happen, but then we move and we have a big time jump.
How big a time jump?
Michelle Ashford: Well, you’ll just have to see.
Have you abandoned all the old sets and locations?
Michelle Ashford: No, because we were there for a bit but then by the end of the year, we will have abandoned them all except for their homes.
What are some of the exciting new places you get to shoot?
Michelle Ashford: Well, there’s a lot of different hospitals that are explored for a while and Masters and Johnson set up an office. That’s where they spent the rest of their careers in real life, so they have a whole new office. Where it is is pretty interesting.