BBC’s ‘intimacy co-ordinator’ reveals tricks for directing sex scenes

BBC’s first ‘intimacy co-ordinator’ who directed Gentleman Jack’s lesbian sex scenes reveals she puts stars at ease with animal analogies – getting them to ‘thrust like gorillas’ and ‘slap around like seals’

  • Intimacy co-ordinated Ita O’Brien worked on new BBC drama Gentleman Jack
  • She directed sex scenes between Suranne Jones and her on-screen lovers
  • Former dancer O’Brien explained the techniques she uses to put stars at ease 
  • Uses animal analogies to give actors and directors a shared language to use 

The BBC’s first ‘intimacy director’ who was brought in to help with lesbian sex scenes in new costume drama Gentleman Jack has revealed the tricks she uses to help put stars at ease. 

Former dancer Ita O’Brien was brought in to ensure actors on the set of the six-part series, including star Suranne Jones, felt comfortable while filming steamy moments – and that the intimacy looks believable to viewers at home. 

O’Brien, who also worked on hit Netflix show Sex Education, told The Times she helps actors develop a ‘language’ of movements using animal analogies. 

Intimacy co-ordinator Ita O’Brien, pictured, was brought in to ensure actors on the set of  Gentleman Jack, including star Suranne Jones, felt comfortable while filming steamy moments

Gentleman Jack, which stars this Sunday night, stars Suranne Jones as the ‘wildly promiscuous Regency lesbian’ Anne Lister and features sex scenes, pictured

Actors are given exercises where they ‘wail like cats’, ‘pant like dogs’ or ‘thrust like a gorilla’ so they have a vocabulary to describe the different points of intercourse.

This can then be used by both directors and actors. ‘It gives everyone a common language, which keeps everything professional,’ O’Brien said.

She continued: ‘It meant in the lesbian sex scene in Sex Education, for example, the director could say “Could you thrust like a gorilla and finish off in full-on seal mode?”‘ 

The period drama features steamy scenes with Miss Jones and her character’s lesbian lovers, including Ann Walker, played by Sophie Rundle, pictured

Gentleman Jack, which stars this Sunday night, stars Suranne Jones as the ‘wildly promiscuous Regency lesbian’ Anne Lister. 

The period drama features steamy scenes with Miss Jones and her character’s lesbian lovers, including Ann Walker, played by Sophie Rundle. 

The show’s creators wanted the actors to feel comfortable in the wake of the #MeToo movement and ensure they were doing ‘right by the lesbian community’.

Suranne Jones, right, as Anne Lister with Sophie Rundle in Gentleman Jack. Producers for the new Regency drama Gentleman Jack brought in an ‘intimacy director’ to coach the actors and ‘do right by the lesbian community’

Speaking previously executive producer Faith Penhale said ‘intimacy director’ is a ‘new role that has been devised for the industry’. 

She said: ‘Employing Miss O’Brien is a positive consequence of the #MeToo movement…

‘We live in very enlightened times now and I think we were all very conscious going into this that a huge part of Anne Lister’s life was her sex life. She was very sexually active and she loved having sex with other women.’

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