'Minx' Cast on That Dick Montage and the Series' Unexpected Connection to 'Pam & Tommy' (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
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In 2015, just as the Game of Thrones fandom was starting to peak, there was growing criticism around sexualized, female nudity often seen on the HBO series, especially compared to the lack of any stripping down seen by its male cast members. Now, seven years later, in the year of the penis, there’s far more male full frontal onscreen than ever before, with Minx outdoing Euphoria with its own montage of male genitalia in the premiere episode.
Ahead of its revealing debut, the cast, including Jake Johnson and Ophelia Lovibond, and creator Ellen Rapoport of the HBO Max workplace comedy open up to ET about the inspiration for the series, embracing all the nudity and Minx’s unexpected connection to Pam & Tommy, another series that bared all onscreen.
Inspired by the magazines, like Foxylady, Playgirl and Viva, Minx tells the story about an unlikely duo – a young feminist named Joyce (Lovibond) and a low-rent publisher named Doug (Johnson) – who come together to launch the first erotic publication marketed to straight women.
“It just felt like a way to tell a period story that was set in a specific moment in time that we were able to look at through our modern lens,” Rapoport tells ET’s Rachel Smith about diving into these real-life workplaces populated by feminist and pornographers working together to publish what was considered at the time an erotic feminist magazine, that mixed naked photos of men with articles about abortion, rape and sexual harassment.
Set in 1970s Los Angeles, the series largely takes place inside the offices where the issues are produced as the staff, Bambi (Jessica Lowe), Richie (Oscar Montoya) and Tina (Idara Victor), try to bring Joyce and Doug’s vision to life. When it comes to what the vision is, however, the two have very different ideas about not only what they want to achieve with the magazine, but how to get there. “They are both really stubborn and steadfast in that,” Lovibond says. “They’ve both got very particular ideas.”
But since Joyce is determined to publish a magazine about the feminist agenda, she has to put a nude male centerfold in the middle of it. As a result, the first episode sees the budding team putting out a casting call to find their first male model. “And there’s a dick montage. It says it in the script, and there’s really no other way to say it,” Lennon Parham, who plays Joyce’s sister, Shelly, says of the scene.
It’s a moment that rivals Euphoria’s first season, which showed dozens of penises in a locker room during one episode -- but in a very different context. In the end, Parham adds, “It’s so funny and shocking and made me blush, made me laugh, made me smile.”
“I feel like it was, at first, really strange,” Johnson says of all the show’s nudity. “And then what got even stranger was when you got used to it. You’d be at work shooting a scene and the idea of having a bunch of naked models around you felt normal. This is a workplace show and they just happened to be shooting smut magazines. So, the nudity became very normal for us pretty quickly.”
When it comes to filming the montage scene, it was ultimately the way it was written and filmed by a team of women that helped assuage anyone’s concerns about what was happening in front of or behind the camera. “We had a female director, we had a female showrunner,” Victor says, referring to Rachel Lee Goldenberg and Rapoport. “They made it fun and sort of cheeky and we joked about it all.”
But Rapoport reveals there was no shortage of male extras “who were willing to take their clothes off for the camera,” she says. “We had so many more submissions that we could have ever used. There were favorites of mine I had to let go because at a certain point it was just too many.”
In the end, Shane (Taylor Zakhar Perez) is selected as the magazine’s first centerfold and serves as another counterpoint to the series’ conversation around feminism. “Taylor’s a dream. He’s just so funny,” Rapoport says of the oft-naked actor, whose character is a dimwitted firefighter charmed by Joyce. “His character is another one that subverts the cliche. He’s dumb, but he has a heart and he has more going on than you realize. He just doesn’t have a way to fully express it yet.”
While nudity is not what the entire series is about, it’s certainly a big part of it. “Almost all of the penises are real,” Rapoport says, referring to Perez and the many male actors who are seen fully naked onscreen over the course of season 1's 10 episodes. However, there were a few instances where prosthetics were needed. “Because penises are not predictable,” she adds, explaining that “sometimes we just need them to look a certain way or do things.”
Of the four times prosthetics were used, one was during filming a centerfold photo shoot, where the endowed model was meant to look like the statue David. “Part of the premise is that his penis is very large and too large for what they’re doing,” Rapoport says, explaining that it was “a generously sized prosthetic.”
And if it all looks familiar, it’s because it was made from the same mold used to create the prosthetic worn by Sebastian Stan on Pam & Tommy. “We used the same mold for a brand new one designed to fit our dude,” Rapoport says.
“It’s almost like we’re part of this new fraternity of shows that’s like, ‘We’re going to show male nudity,'" Victor says of the unexpected connection between the two very different series. “But the difference with Minx is that it’s not sexualized. You can have scenes with a woman standing there topless and it doesn’t feel like she’s there because we’re trying to look at that. I almost don’t even notice it, but it’s happening and I love that about the show.”
“I think in other series, it’s still supposed to be titillating when you see a woman's body and it’s supposed to be shocking if you see male genitalia,” Lowe says, referring to Game of Thrones “when you see the Mother of Dragons emerge from the fire and she’s naked. It’s still, like, sexy even though she’s supposed to be powerful.”
To that point, Rapoport says, “I think it’s cool that we’re normalizing [nudity], and it’s a sex-positive show. But to me, the show was really about these two main characters, Doug and Joyce, and about the idea that a person can come into your life and change the course of it. And to me, these people are two halves of the same whole. And I think it’s a really interesting relationship to explore. So that's actually, for me, the most important part of the show.”
Minx premieres Thursday, March 17 on HBO Max with two new episodes debuting each week through April 14.