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Friday, April 10, 2015

Thomas Maier: Masters of Sex and Biography Come to Life

I had the pleasure of seeing Thomas Maier - author of the Masters of Sex biography upon which the Showtime drama of the same name is based - interviewed at Fordham University tonight.  This is becoming a delightful and informative regular occurrence here at Fordram - interviews of people behind great contemporary television - and thanks go to my colleague Beth Knobel, who several weeks ago arranged for House of Cards creator Beau Willimon and tonight Thomas Maier  (a Fordham alumnus - it was also great to see some of my former students at this event) at our Lincoln Center Campus.  Thanks as well to our Department's Artist-in-Residence Jim Jennewein, who twice conducted excellent interviews - i.e., interviews that  allowed their subjects to really expound upon significant facets of their work.

Let me say, right up front, that my wife and I are devoted fans of the Showtime series, set to begin its third season this July, even though I haven't reviewed it here or anywhere.   Why not, if I like it so much?   Good question and I'm not sure sure of the answer.  It's almost and maybe that I like Masters of Sex a little too much to focus on reviewing it, though loving a series hasn't stopped me from copiously reviewing Dexter, Homeland, Ray Donovan, The Affair, and other notable Showtime shows.  But something about Masters of Sex has bid me so far to keep it a guilty pleasure.  Hey, maybe it's the sex - but who really knows, I'm after all no Freud.

Speaking of whom, Maier's description of the real Virginia Johnson really struck me - "Freud meets Ava Gardner".  In other words,  Lizzy Caplan's excellent portrayal of Johnson is visually as well as emotionally and intellectually on target - something you can't always say about portrayals of real characters, in which the performance can be much more compelling than the original.

Maier's description of the real William Masters also rang true.  As we've seen in the series, Masters portrayed by the masterful Michael Sheen was not happy or comfortable with publicity.   The real Masters, Maier mentioned, would likely have done everything in his power to squelch the series and not cooperate with Maier's biography before it

But my favorite moment in the interview came in Maier's response to a question about how it felt to see his words come to life on television, when he spends most of his time writing them for print on paper and screens. Maier said he loved it!   This was a great corrective to something one of my science fiction editors had told me, years ago, about the "soul deadening" impact of Hollywood on a writer.   There's nothing like hearing an assessment such as Thomas Maier's - from someone who's been there, done it, and finds it one of the glorious experiences of his life.

See also Beau Willimon at Fordham
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