A number of actors, including “West Side Story” star Rachel Zegler and “The Good Place’s” Jameela Jamil have spoken up in defense of hiring intimacy coordinators for film and television productions, following comments made recently by “Game of Thrones” alum Sean Bean. He had claimed intimacy coordinators “spoil the spontaneity” of intimate scenes.
In an interview with Times of London Sunday Magazine, Bean shared, “I think the natural way lovers behave would be ruined by someone bringing it right down to a technical exercise.”
Among those taking to Twitter to share their responses to his comments was Jameela Jamil, soon to be seen in Marvel’s upcoming “She-Hulk” series. “It should only be technical,” she wrote. “It’s like a stunt. Our job as actors is to make it not look technical. Nobody wants an impromptu grope…”
It should only be technical. It’s like a stunt. Our job as actors is to make it not look technical. Nobody wants an impromptu grope…
— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) August 8, 2022
Elsewhere, Rachel Zegler, breakout star of last year’s “West Side Story” remake, tweeted, “intimacy coordinators establish an environment of safety for actors.” She added that she was “extremely grateful” for Claire Warden’s work on the movie musical. Warden “showed grace to a newcomer like myself [and] educated those around me who’ve had years of experience. Spontaneity in intimate scenes can be unsafe. Wake up,” Zegler wrote. She was just 17 when she shot love scenes for the film opposite the then-25-year-old Ansel Elgort, who has faced allegations of sexual assault from a number of young women.
intimacy coordinators establish an environment of safety for actors. i was extremely grateful for the one we had on WSS— they showed grace to a newcomer like myself + educated those around me who’ve had years of experience.
spontaneity in intimate scenes can be unsafe. wake up. https://t.co/bpxT2DVU1R
— rachel zegler (she/her/hers) (@rachelzegler) August 8, 2022
One of Bean’s “Snowpiercer” co-stars, Lena Hall, also took to Twitter to clarify her own perspective on a scene that Bean specifically recalled in his interview.
Following Bean’s assertion that Hall “had a musical cabaret background, so she was up for anything,” in relation to an intimate scene they filmed involving a mango, Hall wrote, “Just because I am in theater (not cabaret, but I do perform them every once in a while) does not mean that I am up for anything.” She clarified that she felt comfortable acting opposite Bean in the scene in question, and added, “if I feel comfortable with my scene partner and with others in the room then I won’t need an intimacy coordinator. But if there is any part of me that is feeling weird, gross, overexposed etc… I will either challenge the necessity of the scene or I’ll want an IC.”
I probably need to clarify some information in this random article since people are reaching out to me like “girl, are you ok?” https://t.co/mBH16KKP8A
— Lena Hall (@LenaRockerHall) August 8, 2022
Bean’s former co-star, Emilia Clarke, has previously spoken about being pressured into performing nude on “Game of Thrones.” On a podcast in 2019, she opened up about her experience working on the show, fresh out of drama school. “I’d been on a film set twice before then, and I’m now on a film set completely naked with all of these people, and I don’t know what I’m meant to do, and I don’t know what’s expected of me, and I don’t know what you want, and I don’t know what I want,” she recalled. There has been no shortage of words written in the years since “Game of Thrones’s” debut about how sex and sexual assault were portrayed, and performed, on the series. HBO announced in 2018 that, going forward, all shows on the cable network would employ intimacy coordinators.
It is not the first time this year that a male actor has made headlines for their dismissal or downright disrespect of the role of intimacy coordinators. In May, Frank Langella was fired from Netflix’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” after the actor took issue with directions he was given about where to place his hands during a love scene. As Vanity Fair reported, “human resources allegedly told Langella that the show’s intimacy coordinator had ‘suggested where you both should put your hands’ during the love scene. Langella had called this instruction ‘absurd.’”
Another actor on “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Rahul Kohli (“The Haunting of Bly Manor”) has also shared his thoughts in response to Bean’s comments. In support of the work that intimacy coordinators do, Kohli tweeted about his own experiences. “While ever so slightly embarrassing at first, [they] are essential for protecting our safety, making us comfortable, and opening up constructive dialogue between the actors and director when scenes call for ‘intimacy,’” he said. “At 36, I’m still uncomfortable with my body and the social anxiety/awkwardness of scenes that call for nudity/lovemaking etc. I can only imagine just how terrifying it is for younger actors, and I’m glad we now have a system in place to protect them.”
Echoing Jamil’s own thoughts about the technical aspect of acting, Kohli added, “As for ‘killing spontaneity’, which is a phrase I’ve heard multiple times from some folk… I’d argue that we don’t complain about it when it’s stunt/fight choreography. It’s our job to rehearse meticulously, and then ‘make it look real’, no different.”
I’ve worked with a few intimacy coordinators now, and while ever so slightly embarrassing at first, are essential for protecting our safety, making us comfortable, and opening up constructive dialogue between the actors and director when scenes call for “intimacy”.
— Rahul Kohli (@RahulKohli13) August 8, 2022
In late 2019, Directors UK published guidelines for directing nudity and sex scenes, which also featured recommendations for how directors should collaborate with intimacy coordinators. SAG-AFTRA published its own standards for the use of intimacy coordinators the following year, and introduced the first industrywide accreditation for the profession in 2021. The profile of — and demand for — the role has increased in recent years, with Ita O’Brien — perhaps the best known name in the field — developing best practice since 2014. Recent projects that she worked on include TV’s “Conversations With Friends” and feature film “The Last Duel.” In 2021, Michaela Coel dedicated one of her two BAFTA wins for “I May Destroy You” to O’Brien, honoring her work both on the series and across the industry.