When Daryl McCormack told his mom he landed a starring role in Searchlight Pictures’ “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” he wasn’t sure what to tell her about first: the character he was playing or who his co-star was. “I think I said, ‘I’m playing a sex worker,’ the 29-year-old Irish actor recalls. “And she said, ‘Oh?’ But then I said, ‘But it’s with Emma Thompson — you know, ‘Love Actually.’”
In the Sophie Hyde-directed “Leo Grande,” which bows on Hulu on June 17, Thompson plays Nancy, a widowed schoolteacher who hires a sex worker named Leo (McCormack) to help her achieve her first orgasm.
To prepare for the drama’s most intimate sex scenes, a private rehearsal was arranged, with Hyde, Thompson and McCormack sitting in a circle and discussing their bodies and sexuality while also slowly taking off pieces of their clothing. “I remember at one point the three of us standing butt naked in the room, and Emma just went, ‘I feel we’re all being held by something bigger here. It really feels like we are meant to somehow tell this story,’” McCormack recalls. “And what felt so significant was that we, the three of us, had to go on a journey with regards to our bodies, with regards to our sexuality, with regards to all of that, within ourselves and do some justice to this film.”
McCormack, who plays Isaiah Jesus on “Peaky Blinders,” is working on pickup shots for Sharon Horgan’s upcoming untitled Apple TV+ series before heading to Germany to shoot “The Tutor” opposite Julie Delpy and Richard E. Grant.
“I said to my therapist many months ago that I really want to grow in terms of my career and person and responsibility. I want to go into those spaces and be able to hold my own,” says McCormack. “She was like, ‘I think you’re learning things to help you hold those kinds of responsibilities.’ And just today we sat down, and I was like, ‘Remember when I asked for those things? I think they’re happening now.’”
When you first got the script, did you know Emma was playing Nancy? I did. And then I began to read the script, but after 10 or so pages, I was like, let me just do a quick scan of the rest of this script because I have a feeling there’s not many other people going to be in this film. And then it dawned on me — there’s no one else really in this film, apart from Leo and Nancy. There were two scenes I had to put on tape. I think the following day I met with Sophie, and she asked me, “Are you free this weekend to meet Emma?” So the following day I went up to Emma’s place in London.
You went to her house? Yes. She was in the front garden, and I was like, “Emma, I’m so sorry, but before we go, can I use your loo?” Because I really needed to use the bathroom. She said, “Of course, love, it’s under the stairs.” And then amongst that were two Oscars, just sitting on the toilet.
How important was the intimacy coordinator during filming? We didn’t have one. We actually just did it ourselves. Intimacy coordinators are really import- ant, and their work is so valuable and so useful and needed, but at the same time, we were able to come to each other and go, “What do you think is going to best serve our relationship with this?” And we just found that out of the safety and out of the connection that we had already found. It felt real exciting to us to actually build that ourselves with the director.