The Behind the Scenes Fights Over Nudity on ‘The Affair’ Are Way More Interesting Than ‘The Affair’

The Affair is a Showtime series that is charitably described as a relationship drama, but always seemed to me like it was a softcore porn soap opera. The most interesting that happened on the series was the mystery of why star Ruth Wilson left after the fourth season, and The Hollywood Reporter has laid out the whole bloody affair, which seems to basically hinge on Wilson wanting to do less nudity when her star was on the rise like she was in Game of Thrones or something.

The Hollywood Reporter interviewed many of those involved in Wilson’s exit and the events that precipitated it. Many say Wilson, who is restrained by an NDA, had long wanted to leave the show because of ongoing frustrations with the nudity required of her, friction with Treem over the direction of her character, and what she ultimately felt was a “hostile work environment,” later the subject of a previously unreported 2017 investigation by Showtime parent company CBS.

I will never for the life of me understand why someone signs on to do a show that is at least 40-50% about sex and then act like the producers and the directors are some kind of monsters for wanting the show to have sex in it.

Sources, many of whom declined to speak on the record, say Wilson was often asked to be unclothed in scenes where there seemed to be no clear creative rationale for the nudity other than for it to be “titillating,” as one person involved with the production puts it. Another source overheard Wilson ask on set, referring to a male co-star, “Why do you need to see me and not more of him?”

Being titillating is actually a reasonable thing to want on a Showtime series, it’s all most of them really have. She also complained that Sarah Treem, the creator and showrunner of the series, tried to talk her into doing her job even when she didn’t want to.

I get it, nudity is a touchy subject, but Wilson agreed to it when she took the role then set about trying to get it taken out. She could have just passed on the show if she didn’t want to do the things they wanted her to do.

This is where Lena Dunham enters the picture. Apparently at a dinner with Dunham and a few other people, The Affair producer Jeffrey Reiner reportedly asked Dunham to talk to Wilson about her reluctance to do nudity, praising Dunham for being willing to “show anything. Even your asshole.” (Please, Lena Dunham, don’t do this). He also showed her a nude photo of an actor from the show when challenged on not having enough male nudity.

So Wilson left and her character was killed off, though not before Wilson refused to shoot a sexual assault scene that was in the script.

Personally, I think more prime-time and prestige shows should think about recasting actors rather than killing them off. It worked for Bewitched and Roseanne. They should have had a second Roseanne, honestly. I would have liked to see Sarah Chalke step in as Roseanne, I think they could have made it work.

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