Outlander’s intimacy coordinator, Vanessa Coffey, shares details on how they went about filming the birth scene in season 6, episode 2.
The cast and crew of Outlander recent spoke on how exactly they filmed Marsali’s intimate birth scene during season 6, episode 2. Marsali is played by Lauren Lyle and is married to Fergus, played by César Domboy. Their love for each other has proven to conquer external circumstances, including Fergus’ shame from being born in brothel, which he also believed would lead to the disapproval of Marsali’s mother, Laoghaire, regarding a marriage to Marsali.
Although it took some convincing, Marsali and Fergus were eventually married, and in season 6, episode 2 of Outlander, they recently welcomed a child to their family. During the birth scene, Marsali’s labor becomes increasingly treacherous and requires the intervention of Fergus to help further the birth along. He does so by kissing and caressing her breast, and the rest of how he further helped progress the labor is left to the viewers’ imagination. The result, however, is a success with the birth of Henri-Christian by the end of the episode.
Now, intimacy coordinator Vanessa Coffey, along with Lyle and Domboy, spoke with TVLine regarding the birth scene and how important Coffey and the art department were to the scene. Coffey noted that there was a large amount of research, preparation, and collaboration between herself, Domboy, and Lyle in order to produce a scene that was accurate to the time period when Outlander season 6 takes place, and also comfortable for everyone on set. Lyle sited that Coffey’s presence and the use of prosthetics greatly enhanced her comfort level and her ability to fully delve into the process of portraying a birth on screen. Coffey relayed that the use of an intimacy coordinator goes further than talking about a scene before it takes place. The process also includes rehearsing the specific choreography required for the scene, implementing boundaries to separating the character from the actor f0r intimate scenes, offering video playbacks so that the actors can make sure they are comfortable with every angle being shown during the scene, and the aftercare between the intimacy coordinator and the actor. Read Coffey’s explanation of how they approached filming the scene below:
It starts…with reading the script. Seeing what the detail is in there, what we can draw out already, what are the physical actions that have already been described by the writers’ room that they want to see. And then it’s a matter of speaking with the executive producers next to find out what their vision is for the scenet o make sure that again, we’re being true to what they’re trying to say for that particular scene, because it might be more than what’s on the page, actually. There might be more things they want to draw out. So after having those conversations, then having a conversation with the director about their artistic vision for the scene and how we’re going to bring that to life, collaboratively, and then having conversations with the actors individually at first to say “OK, these are the parameters of the scene that have been set out so far. What are your thoughts on that?” It sounds really obvious, but asking some really nice, open questions of the actors to make sure you’re eliciting as much information from them as possible about any concerns they’ve got.
Also going into things like what they want to draw out in the scene, too. Anything I need to be aware of before we go into choreographing the scene. And once you have those chats individually with each other actors, to feed anything back to the director and to production that they need to know. And then the next step is getting in and doing a physical rehearsal and in this case — and the art department are absolutely fantastic on Outlander because the set up a rehearsal space for us that was essentially the equivalent of what we would have on set, because they were using the set that day. It was fabulous because you actually are working with all of the props, anything you might need in order to bring that scene to life, you’ve got it in place. Actually, that was really helpful, because one of the things that I hadn’t brought my mind to was the fact that in this case, there is also a wooden hand that we’re dealing with in the choreography. So that was like, OK, we need to change things, because you won’t have you leaning on a hand you couldn’t possibly be leaning on. So there were practicalities in the choregraphy that we had to consider.
Coffey also noted that aside from a prosthetic belly, which Outlander‘s Lyle needed for the scene, she also used prosthetic breasts for the scene. This was used not only for Lyle’s comfortability, but also because they needed breasts which looked as though they were actually 9 months pregnant, which Lyle’s real breasts would not have portrayed. This detail brings about the fact that intimacy coordinators help add not only safe, consensual processes to the workplace during intimate scenes, but also help create scenes which are more authentic and accurate to, for instance, what someone really looks like when they’re giving birth.
Coffey mentioned that this was the first show that she’s worked on where an intimacy coordinator has not been present from the start of the series. This is not to say that the beginning of Outlander is without intimate scenes, quite the opposite, but the series did start eight years ago, and the use of intimacy coordinators in Hollywood has not become popularized until more recent years. It’s clear now that intimacy coordinators provide a level of checks and balances that help actors, writers, producers, and directors on set create intimate and vulnerable scenes which are both safe for all involved, and even more realistic than if the presence of an intimacy coordinator was missing. How Coffey’s work will further be used in season 6 of Outlander will have to be seen as the series continues to air on Starz.
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