An Inside Look At Jamie & Claire’s First Sex Scene In Season 6, With Director Kate Cheeseman

- Outlander -
An Inside Look At Jamie & Claire’s First Sex Scene In Season 6, With Director Kate Cheeseman

Jamie and Claire connecting through sex on Outlander is a fundamental part of their relationship. But Jamie and Claire's first love scene following Claire's assault in the Season 5 finale needed to be handled with sensitivity. The director of "Echoes," Kate Cheeseman, spoke with The Dipp about how she wanted to portray this sex scene in Outlander Season 6 by being mindful of the trauma Claire experienced, and working with intimacy coordinator Vanessa Coffey.

Cheeseman, who helmed the first two episodes of the season, has directed for British TV shows like Casualty and Call the Midwife but was new to Outlander. She had that in common with the Coffey as this is the first season that the Starz show has utilized an intimacy coordinator. Like with Fergus assisting with Marsali's labor and the two Cherokee women seducing Jamie, Cheeseman worked alongside Coffey for Jamie and Claire's first sex scene of the season.

As Cheeseman explains, Coffey served as something of an intermediary between herself and the actors. "She talks to everybody beforehand and makes everybody feel comfortable, which sort of helped break the ice," Cheeseman says. "I was very grateful for that because it's quite different. You're going in with two world-renowned stars and you've got to talk about having sex ... before you've actually done any shooting." Obviously, Caitríona Balfe and Sam Heughan are no strangers to filming sex scenes for the show and Cheeseman praises their professionalism. But, she notes, it can still be uncomfortable since "it isn't your everyday thing."

"So it was really great having her there," Cheeseman says of Coffey. "She could make sure they got the right clothes and that they were completely comfortable."

From interviews, Balfe and Heughan also appreciated having an intimacy coordinator on set. In fact, Heughan takes credit for bringing Coffey on board and Balfe noted Coffey's presence was particularly helpful since she was pregnant while filming Claire and Jamie's Season 6 love scenes.

While Coffey facilitated conversations with the performers, Cheeseman notes that, as director, "I still say what I want in terms of shots." When it came to Claire's headspace, Cheeseman approached the love scene in "Echoes" as if it was the first time Claire and Jamie have had sex since she had been raped. (As author Diana Gabaldon has noted, the aftermath of the assault is different in the books.)

"Because I was aware of the rape and her recovering from that in the previous season ... I thought it should be very much Claire initiating it and being in control," Cheeseman says, noting that's why "she climbs on top basically."

"I felt that it was all about their love, because they've always been sustained by their sex and their love. That's since when Jamie was recovering," the director adds, pointing to Jamie's own sexual assault in Season 1 and his handling of it in Season 2. (Cheeseman tells me that after she got the directing gig, she made sure to watch every episode of Outlander.)

"I was quite interested in doing that in a very tight, loving shot. So I would talk about that with Vanessa, and she would then help with the choreography of that," she says. That choreography would come down to the technical specifics. "She'd just come out and say things like, 'How many thrusts do you want?'"

Rather than zap the sexiness out of a love scene, these particulars offer the performers protection. After all, as Cheeseman notes, they are only acting in sex scenes. "They're not really making love. They're effectively doing a kind of love stunt."

"You're saying, 'Right, so you're going to touch her hair, you're going to stroke her here, you're going to do this, do this,' and that's all blocked out like a ballet or a dance," Cheeseman says. "I think you have to think of them a bit like, say, stunts or choreography scenes."

The director says that Coffey also "always emphasized" what the characters' intentions were in any intimate scene — just as you would with any scene of dialogue. The focus on character (which probably helps eliminate gratuitous love scenes), plus the staged direction, seems to be the key to creating a supportive set during intimate scenes — no matter if it's the first time actors have done one or the umpteenth, as in the case of Balfe and Heughan on Outlander.

"What I think sometimes happened in the past is directors get nervous about talking about it, so they just kind of go, 'Do your thing,'" Cheeseman says. "And I think it's more important to talk." Because though it may seem that talking about the minutia of a sex scene would be awkward, it lessens the burden on the performers and makes the whole ordeal less uncomfortable for everyone. "It's very technical and I think that helps people deal with it."

Images: Starz

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