HBO’s new comedy “Mrs. Fletcher” follows the journey of an empty-nester divorcee who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and sexual exploration following her son’s departure for college. At the series premiere on Monday night at the Avalon Hollywood in Los Angeles, Kathryn Hahn discussed playing the titular role of Eve Fletcher, a middle-aged woman at first adrift and then adventurous upon being freed from the shackles of expectations that had defined her life.
“I love that we got to see a woman at this stage in the game with such a beautiful sense of courage and bravery to just try something new,” Hahn told Variety. “This quest to find her authentic self underneath a lifetime of identities and labels being prescribed to her, that’s she actually at a place where she’s like screw it, I’m ready to dig up who I am and it’s amazing.”
Throughout the show, Hahn’s character struggles with her son’s absence and her concerns about his potentially toxic views of women and sex, which have been largely informed by internet porn and social media. Though it seems that these topics were rarely addressed on-screen between mother and child during his upbringing, Hahn explained that she and her husband have taken the opposite approach with their own kids.
“My son is almost 13, and we are incredibly open with talking about issues like that,” Hahn said. “The incredibly good thing in his scenario is that he had really great examples and that’s a huge start. Good examples are really huge.”
In wake of the #MeToo era, HBO introduced a new policy mandating that an intimacy coordinator – a professional sex scene advisor — would monitor all projects. Hahn, who had never previously worked with an intimacy coordinator, said she was pleasantly surprised by the level of comfort it afforded the actors.
“My first thought was that I was worried that maybe it was going to be something between the director and the actor, that it was going to feel like an extra voice in a way, but it was not like that at all,” Hahn told Variety. “In fact, it made it feel like all the stuff was just handled so we could just focus on the scene. We knew that the partner was taken care of and felt safe and you could just walk on and feel completely comfortable and safe and good.”
Jackson White, who plays Fletcher’s college-bound son Brendan enthusiastically agreed with the practice.
“It was amazing, and I would recommend it for any television or movie that has sex scenes because it made us feel so protected,” White told Variety. “Intimacy coordinators are the new vibe. That’s the new way to go. I don’t know how they did it for 100 years of film. You need someone there who is like a coach or a referee.”
“Mrs. Fletcher” is an adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s 2017 novel of the same name. Perrotta, who served as showrunner, said it was a priority to including female voices in the making of the series.
“We had all women directors, we had a majority female writers’ room and there was a feeling of this is a collaborative story. It isn’t just my version of how a middle-aged woman would experience a sexual awakening,” Perrotta told Variety. “There was a real desire not to have the show defined by a male gaze. There’s something that sounds very prurient about the subject matter of the show, but we wanted to talk about it in a very female-driven way.”
Though pornography has a significant impact on both mother and son’s dual “coming of age” stories, Perrotta explained the show wasn’t intended to an endorsement or a condemnation.
“We weren’t interested in saying porn is bad or porn is good,” Perrotta said. “It’s more like porn is here and it has infiltrated every aspect of our sexual culture and as a result, it has all kinds of good and bad aspects. It really does depend on how an individual uses it and how self-aware that individual is. For Eve, it opens up sexual possibilities and for Brendan, it gives him a bad sexual narrative that he keeps trying recreate.”
“Mrs. Fletcher” premieres Oct. 27 on HBO.