Maggie Gyllenhaal Interview: ‘The Deuce’
It was crucially important to Maggie Gyllenhaal that she be a producer on HBO‘s “The Deuce” in addition to her starring role as Candy, a prostitute in 1970s New York City struggling to get by. “I just felt like I needed some kind of guarantee that I was going to be a part of the conversation,” she explains, since “so much of my body was going to be required in order to play this part in a realistic way.” Her agents, manager and even her friends told her she’d never get producing credit on a show she didn’t develop, so “when they gave it to me it was kind of amazing because it was the beginning of this collaboration. They were like, ‘Yes, we want all of you.'” Watch our exclusive video interview with Gyllenhaal above.
Gyllenhaal’s experience behind the scenes actually parallels her character’s in a way. Candy is fiercely independent, refusing to be protected (and thus controlled) by a pimp despite the dangers of her profession, so when she sees a way out in the burgeoning world of pornography, she recognizes an opportunity for herself not just as a performer but as a producer and director. The porn world was certainly “painful and exploitative” for many of the women involved, but “for Candy it’s like the birth of an artist.”
But Candy’s eventual rise only comes after a number of traumatic experiences. However, “feeling sad or self-pity is something that I think people who are really on the edge don’t have the luxury to feel,” so no matter what the writers threw at Gyllenhaal and her character, they couldn’t “bring her down. Rat crawling up my arm? I’m good. Guy dying after a blowjob? I’m fine. Nothing’s going to get me down.”
“The Deuce” isn’t just about one woman or even one industry. It was co-created by David Simon, whose previous projects including “The Wire” and “Treme” have explored the broader politics underlying his stories, and his latest series is no exception. “It makes you ask questions about power and sex and commerce, which is really what all of us have been talking about in terms of Hollywood right now,” she says, drawing a parallel between the themes of this series and the current climate following the revelations of widespread sexual harassment and abuse in the entertainment industry and beyond. “How have people exploited sexuality? How have they used their own sexuality to get the things that we need?” Gyllenhaal ponders. “The system is fundamentally broken. The system is fundamentally misogynistic. And so the way that all of us, men and women, exist inside of this sexist system I think is what’s interesting and what we’re exploring.”