I heard a fantastic little interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal yesterday on NPR’s Fresh Air podcast. The talk was in conjunction with the release of two new projects; season two of the HBO series The Deuce and the Netflix film The Kindergarten Teacher.
The Deuce is a visually immersive look at the burgeoning porn industry in and around Times Square in 1970s New York, following a group of sex workers and their pimps. Gyllenhaal plays a prostitute and single mother who operates without a pimp and has dreams of directing adult movies. At the time, the creation and exhibition of any pornographic material was a highly criminal offence.
Gyllenhaal discusses her working relationship with David Simon and George Pelecanos, creators of The Wire, Generation Kill, Treme, Show Me A Hero and now The Deuce. She talks of a pivotal moment over her first lunch with Simon where she explained that it was critical to ensure a distinction between a forced and genuine sexual climax. “I thought it was important to find some place to show a real, not-performative female climax.”
Simon granted her wish in episode five, writing in an intimate scene where Gyllenhaal gets herself off after making love with a new boyfriend. As she tells it, the scene was “without a doubt the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever done on screen.” Her joy was short-lived after receiving a preliminary cut, her performance on the cutting-room floor.
”I was so upset, I was so confused. I was literally up all night. I wrote this many paragraph long dissertation as to why they had to put it back in and stopped David and George and Nina — the other producer on set — and explained to them again what I’d said in my email and they put it back in.”
I loved this story because I know how hard it can be to fight for your vision on set. What was especially eye-opening about her experience was that she was the lead talent and a series producer no less. Reputation aside, her passion and drive is so exceptionally pure that it made me fall in love with her all over again.
Gyllenhaal is a fascinating woman and an extraordinary talent who comes from a revered artistic family with a director for a father, a screenwriter for a mother and an acclaimed actor for a younger brother. Both siblings would star in their father’s feature A Dangerous Woman in the early nineties.
Speaking of the underlying importance of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, she talks of a new day, of “women waking up to the fact that they’ve been accepting a way of living that they’re not okay with.”