Why did you want to get involved?
I’d worked with the exec producer and with Hayley before, and Lucy was on the young writers’ team on Skins – I’ve followed her career ever since. So all those elements were encouraging. And in terms of subject matter, the porn industry was interesting for me. We’re in a weird moment where the taboo of watching porn has almost totally been removed, but it’s still this thing people feel should only exist on their laptop, not in the real world, so it dehumanises the people who work in it. Humanising the people who make this content that millions of us watch felt really important. And then there’s Rich himself: how do you maintain a stable family environment and trust in a marriage, and raise kids? These are relatable problems given an unusual spin.
Who is Rich?
Rich is a dedicated father who probably knew who Jolene was when he met her. He understands the industry and how it works. Him becoming involved in the business by running her Twitter feed was probably Hayley/Jolene’s way of letting him in. He’s probably not being honest with himself – he thinks he’s more important to the business than he probably is. Hayley comes home from work, makes tea for the kids and he disappears upstairs to “put in a shift on her Twitter”, like that’s the most arduous thing anyone in the family’s done that day. But every character does things that are fairly ambiguous in their motivation and morality.
How is his marriage with Hayley?
If one half of a couple clearly has more earning power, it often makes sense for the other half to join in with that. But Rich has become lazy, even if he doesn’t recognise that. He loves her to bits, but he doesn’t always know what’s best for her. Later on, as Hayley’s life begins to spiral out of control, he doesn’t exactly admonish her for some of what she’s doing because he’s as obsessed with getting ‘likes’ and ‘hits’ on Jolene’s Twitter as their daughter is with getting them on Instagram.
Hayley/Jolene eventually has to ask herself why is she’s still in the industry. Does Rich have a view on that?
We’re all capable of normalising different things that become part of everyday life. Part of Rich being with Hayley was accepting Jolene Dollar as part of that life. He has to tread carefully between what’s best for her and their young family and not stepping on toes. But once the money comes in and it’s the sole support of the family, he becomes more willing to tolerate and ignore things he should be putting his foot down about, without even realising.
How helpful was it to know Hayley so well before filming the sex scenes?
I’ve had sex scenes on almost every job I’ve had recently, and the advent of intimacy coordination has been brilliant. You get time to talk about the scene, the story we’re telling and what we’re comfortable with. But it also provides that buffer between the actors and the director and producer. I’ve had other jobs where you’ve agreed everything, then on set there’s a polite suggestion to show a little more, and in that scenario there’s an entire crew standing around waiting to work. I hope the sex scenes between Hayley and Rich are the most revealing of the whole show, because we wanted to illustrate the difference between pornography and real intimacy.
Was Rich an easy character to relate to?
Yes, he’s trying to do what he thinks is best for his family. I’m at an age where my friends are having kids and you can see how instantly someone’s priorities change and it’s not even a stretch for them. There’s a lot of complex stuff going on with him. This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s the kind of work I love – divisive and thought provoking.