Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan Q&A: ‘The Girlfriend Experience’ creators
Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan readily admit during our recent webcam chat (watch above) to being shocked when Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”) chose them to adapt his acclaimed 2009 film “The Girlfriend Experience” for television. “It was very surreal to get a phone call from him offering a television show,” Seimetz says. “Having known him now though,” she adds, “he likes that direct contact and cutting out the middlemen.” And Kerrigan agrees. “It was a very collaborative experience. When you work with Steven, he makes a lot of suggestions and gives his input, but he never forces you to take his notes, so it really becomes a conversation between three filmmakers.”
Their Starz drama series, which recently wrapped its first season, focuses on law student Christine Reade (Riley Keough), an intern at a prestigious New York law firm who moonlights as a high-end escort. They detail their approach to bringing their shared vision to life. “We would talk every day for hours and hours over Skype,” says Seimetz. “We mapped out the entire season. And then once we were done with the entire arc of the whole season, we broke down each episode, scene by scene by scene, so by the time that we were actually ready to start writing the screenplay, we knew exactly what was going to happen.“
Kerrigan says their collaboration continued throughout the entire process of putting the show together. “If you can write all of the scripts up front, if you can get one or two writer-directors, or directors to do the entire show, you get a real specific unity of vision that you don’t get with traditional televisions where you have many writers and directors. The shooting process becomes much more efficient.”
The series has been praised for exploring sexuality, gender and identity. The sex scenes are given context and do not come across as gratuitous. “It was very matter of fact,” Seimetz says, explaining that the intention was to put the viewers in the room, “like they were watching this experience that they really weren’t supposed to be.” This enabled the audience to be privy to these very private and intimate moments that the lead character was experiencing as she began to discover who she wanted to be.
“We started with this premise of somebody who enters this world of high-end escorts,” Kerrigan explains. “She would have to compartmentalize aspects of her life; being a law student, being an intern, her personal life and her professional life as an escort. Invariably when you try to compartmentalize different aspects there’s going to be spill over and your worlds start to collide. When they start to collide, which they do on this show, then you’re forced to make a choice, and that’s what is guiding this whole thing. What choice in the end that she makes about what she wants out of her life.”