The Girlfriend Experience
Courtesy of Starz

Starz’s “The Girlfriend Experience” offers a provocative take on the world of sex and relationships, even by pay TV standards.

The half-hour series, which premieres April 10, stars Riley Keough. It’s based on the 2009 movie of the same name helmed by Steven Soderbergh about high-end call girls who offer what is known as “the girlfriend experience” to clients. But beyond the title, the TV series is largely a fresh start from the movie, written and directed by Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz.

“The mandate was to take the title and start over,” Soderbergh said.

Keough plays a law student in Chicago and intern at a prestigious firm who is introduced into the world of transactional relationships. One of the most significant themes in the show is that Keough’s character feels in control of her life, in contrast to most portrayals of prostitution.

“What this show portrays that is really important is that this is a woman who likes sex, without guilt and without shame,” Kerrigan said. “She’s a sexual person.”

Soderbergh added that the show aims to offer an honest look on activity that goes on every day, without casting judgment on any of the participants.

“None of us had any interest in editorializing on whether this is appropriate behavior,” he said.

Keough said she connected via Skype with a woman who works in the field and it helped her to understand how the woman engage in sex “with no emotional connection.” The actress worked briefly on Soderbergh’s 2012 movie “Magic Mike,” and he was impressed. “I knew she had more in the tank” as an actress, he said.

Keough said she’s shown “Girlfriend Experience” to her mother — “she’s pretty progressive” but she allowed: “I don’t want to show the men in my family this show.”

“Girlfriend Experience” will screen at the Sundance film festival later this month, a coup for Starz. Soderbergh said it “fits within the construct of what that festival is trying to be about.”

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