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The Importance of Intimacy Coordinators

Just because the character is reliving trauma doesn’t mean you, as the actor, has to be traumatized.

amanda Cutting, Intimacy Cordinator

As actors we are rarely and often tasked to use our bodies in ways that convey the character and a message at large. Going to those places and being emotionally and sometimes physically exposed can present extreme challenges. Challenges that most industry officials aren’t easily equipped to accommodate, nor have the time or training to do so. 

This where the intimacy coordinators are key. In the fall of 2020, I had the pleasure and the honor of working, for the first time ever, with three amazing intimacy coordinators; Amanda Cutting and Megan Gilron on Wendy Williams: The Movie and Nicole Callender on The Oval. Having worked in this business now for over 15 years, I’ve done my best to navigate the call for intimate scenes on my own. Which could be a very tough position as a woman; you don’t want to come off as difficult and yet you want to protect your body and image while presenting a character. 

There are so many things to consider when being tasked to show yourself as a character in an intimate scene. First, what is the scene? Is it consensual lovemaking or a depiction of sexual abuse and/or violence? Who is the other actor(s)? What is the director’s vision for the scene? And most importantly, what am I comfortable with?

Depicting these scenes sans intimacy coordinators have presented some perplexing situations, especially given that outside of my profession, I am in a relationship and I always want to respect my body and protect what’s intimate in my relationship. And in most previous cases, I’ve worked with first time male actors or actors who haven’t had the training to know how to properly depict intimate scenes. So pulling these off without an intimacy coach felt very daunting at times and yet you learn real quick how to set boundaries for yourself and your outside relationship. 

Discussing Boundaries

I recall working with Michale Ealy back on Common Law. Contrary to any popular believe intimate scenes aren’t easy, no matter the looks of your co-star. Michale was the first screen partner to ever pull me aside and discuss the nature of what we will be doing on screen. He told me what was off limits for him and asked what my limits were. I felt great appreciation for him in that moment and it then dawned on me that no one, who’d I’d played opposite of on screen, had ever asked me what I was comfortable with. I must note here, that’s no fault to those in the past. Most productions move fast without rehearsal and regard for allotting time for the actors to discuss these scenes. 

But Mr. Ealy maturely and professionally made space for that and so I listed my do’s and don’ts and we both came to a professional and amicable agreement to what will be depicted on screen. Noting that no tongue is never necessary on screen. And so the scene played! 

It’s that type of decency that keeps the set professional and to a certain standard. And with most productions beginning to adapt and apply more intimacy coordinators it really helps to shift our industry in the best ways possible. And I’m so here for it. 

My first time working with an intimacy was while working on The Oval in Atlanta, with Nicole Callender. I was so happy and appreciative for Mr. Perry to bring on board someone who are sharp, equipped, and completely understanding to the needs of us actors. I explained to Ms. Callender that being safe and yet respecting my relationship was key in staging some of those scenes. She understood completely and we choreographed some hot scenes that didn’t cross my boundaries nor the scene partner. 

Ms. Cutting and Ms. Gilron would be my second experience working with intimacy coordinators during the filming of the Wendy Williams movie. They are exceptional in their work. Providing all the tools for actors to feel comfortable, safe and fully supportive. It’s not easy work, no matter how fun or easy we may make it seem.

Having them available to walk me through how to safely convey sexual assault scenes and intimate lovemaking scenes made me feel so at ease. They worked somewhat as surrogate mothers and liaisons between myself, the other actors, and the production, providing technical details and nurturing techniques. All of which allow for creative expression to be real, authentic, entertaining, and above all else, safe. 

A screen still from Lifetime’s Wendy Williams: The Movie. Morocco Omari as Kevin Hunter and Ciera Payton as Wendy Williams

I hope that the use of intimacy coordinators becomes an industry norm from here on out. They are truly an essential necessity to our industry. And I hope to have the opportunity to work with Ms. Cutting, Ms. Gilron, and Ms. Callender again in the future. They are such great professionals who understand the work on a deeper level and they deserve to soar in their creative endeavors. 

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