Following reports that The Affair actress Ruth Wilson took issue with “the frequency and nature of certain nude scenes” prior to her exit, showrunner and co-creator Sarah Treem shared her side of the story in a guest column for our sister site Deadline.
While Wilson reportedly refused to shoot an “aggressive sex scene” with leading man Dominic West, Treem initially commented that she “did everything I could think of” to make Wilson feel comfortable with the show’s racier scenes.
In the new essay, Treem elaborates: “In the pilot episode … she came to me and didn’t like the director’s suggestion that she do the scene nude against the hood of the car. I agreed and talked to the director and we changed the scene.”
According to Treem, the show used body doubles for scenes Wilson objected to and also allowed the actress to approve story-boarded scenes before shooting. One particular sex scene in the show’s third episode was even removed entirely, she wrote.
By the time the series was into its third season, Treem stated she abandoned original plans for the character and was “actively trying to write Alison closer to Ruth’s vision.”
“I was working incredibly hard to locate some sort of happy medium for us, where she would feel good about doing the show and we could continue to move the story forward,” she wrote. Treem also drew a clear distinction between having creative differences with Wilson about the character’s choices and putting Wilson in uncomfortable situations during scenes with sex and nudity.
“On a continuous basis throughout Ruth’s time on the show, I tried to protect her and shoot sex scenes safely and respectfully,” she added. “We didn’t agree on the choices of the character or whether or not a sex scene was necessary to advance the plot, but that is not the same thing as not respecting or supporting an actress’s need to feel safe in her work environment, which is something I always take incredibly seriously.”
When Showtime executives instructed Treem to write Wilson out of the show, the showrunner decided the character needed to die (rather than “just walk away into the sunset”), leading to Alison’s death at the hand of a veteran named Ben, a man she later discovered to be married.
“I went back to her beginning. Back into a situation where a married man is projecting his fantasies onto her and she could potentially use sex to numb her pain,” Treem said. Anticipating controversy, the showrunner was sure to get approval from Showtime on multiple occasions, only to have — according to Treem — Wilson’s team report that the actress wasn’t happy with Alison’s demise as written. Treem was asked to change the script.
“At that point, I absolutely fought back because I didn’t want to write a script where a veteran just goes insane and kills a woman with no impetus,” wrote Treem. “To this day, I hate that the storyline seems to suggest that veterans suffering from PTSD are so crazy they might murder women at any point.”
Treem ended her piece by declaring her efforts in “confronting the patriarchy” and “celebrating women’s narratives.”
“I did not always agree with Ruth Wilson, but I did always have respect for her craft, her ability and her process,” the EP said. “I know she’ll continue to tell the story of complex, multi-faceted, remarkable female characters for the rest of her long career. I plan on doing the same.”