TIME Television

Lizzy Caplan: Masters of Sex Wouldn’t Be the Same Made by a Man

Masters of Sex
Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson and Caitlin Fitzgerald as Libby Masters in Masters of Sex Michael Desmond—Showtime

The show's female creator is important — but not for the reason you might guess

With the second season of Masters of Sex premiering July 13, the women who make the show what it is — creator Michelle Ashford, along with executive producers Amy Lippman and Sarah Timberman — spoke to TIME about how the show addresses the mechanics and the pleasure of sex, all while avoiding voyeurism.

But that’s not where their feminine sides really show through. Star Lizzy Caplan says that there’s no way to say whether a sex scene written by a man versus one written by a woman is more gratuitous — but that there is one element of the show’s arc that wouldn’t be possible if the show weren’t created by women. And, ironically, it’s something that has very little to do with sex (though it does contain spoilers for last season):

Our show would look completely different if it were run by a man instead of Michelle supported by two other strong women. I think the first thing that would look a lot different would be the love triangle between Masters and his wife and Virginia. I think we still have a lot more story to tell there but one of the things that fascinated all the women — Caitlin Fitzgerald, who plays [Masters' wife] Libby, included — was the fact that Virginia and Libby really did cultivate this loving friendship with one another while all of this was going on. The care given to that — not making the Libby character super two-dimensional and the Virginia character this man-eater — I think that has a female touch written all over it. Also, especially in the second season, there’s a lot revolving around Virginia and Dr. DePaul, played by Julianne Nicholson. Again, the meticulous care given to that relationship is something that only a woman would understand. There is a deep emotional love connection in female friendships and I don’t even know if guys are aware that’s going on.

But that’s not to say that Caplan doesn’t think their depiction of on-screen sex isn’t woman-friendly: “I think they’ve managed to do that,” she says of the show’s racier scenes, “where it doesn’t feel like it’s being made for 14-year-old boys.”

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