Ryan Michelle Bathe Reveals What Sterling K. Brown Thinks of Her Steamy 'First Wives Club' Scenes (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
By now, most fans have binged the first season of the BET+ series First Wives Club, which debuted to positive reviews and plenty of anticipation in September. The show, an adaptation of the 1996 comedy starring Bette Midler, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn from EP Tracy Oliver, stars Jill Scott as Hazel, Michelle Buteau as Bree, and Ryan Michelle Bathe as Ari -- three women who help each other through rough patches in their lives by prioritizing their friendships and vowing to have more fun.
“You want to see three people who really love each other and support each other and that is what the show is about,” Bathe tells ET.
Meanwhile, on the show, her character struggles to navigate an unsatisfying marriage with her husband, David (Mark Tallman), while also serving as his campaign manager. To demonstrate just how out of sync the couple is, the first episode sees them engage in the shortest, least sexiest sex scene seen on TV. “I had to lean into the fact that this is her every day, like, this is just how it is,” Bathe says of where Ari is in her life at that moment, adding that she has to close her eyes any time any of her sex scenes appear onscreen.
Luckily for Ari, things between the sheets only get better from there -- with all the women getting plenty of sex scenes throughout the first season -- but perhaps, to some embarrassment for the actress. “I lived it the first time. I do not need to relive it over and over again.”
While she refuses to watch them, Bathe says that her husband, Sterling K. Brown, has. “He thought the sex scenes were great,” she says with a laugh, adding that she was really touched he took to time to watch the show, which also happens to be her first starring role after back-to-back recurring roles on This Is Us, Empire and The Rookie. “He enjoyed it. He said he was super proud of me.”
She continues by saying, “He’s a fan of the work and coming from him, that means absolutely everything.”
Considering both of them are working actors and very vocal about their adoration for one another, it’s not surprising that they turn to each other for feedback. However, “it’s a dangerous thing to be like, ‘Critique my performance. Tell me what I did wrong,’” Bathe clarifies, adding that they lean on each other for opinions on scripts or for help working through specific scenes.
Referencing the moment when Carrie critiqued a sentence in Berger’s novel leading him to break up with her over a Post-It note, Bathe says, “Have we learned nothing from Sex and the City? Don’t ask for critiques on the work.”
Speaking of Sex and the City, it’s hard not to compare the two series, especially since First Wives Club sees three women very much enjoying sex while living in New York City. But Bathe is not put off by it. In fact, she says it’s “because there are so few shows that feature women. There are so few shows with four women leads and it’s not necessarily about men.”
“The reason why people bring up Sex and the City, there’s not enough to compare it to,” she says, adding that audiences are only now getting “more diverse shows about women,” such as Insecure, Fleabag and First Wives Club, which she hopes comes back for a second season. “There will come a time when I think that people won’t compare everything that has women to Sex and the City. We have to continue to put enough shows out there.”