Just as summer starts to really sizzle, Showtime is turning up the heat with the season 2 premiere of its provocative drama, Masters of Sex. As part of the network's buzz-building for the Emmy-nominated drama, Sex scored five nominations total, and Screen Rant was recently invited to step back into the 1960s to tour the set and observe cast and crew hard at work (no pun intended). Judging from what we saw and what we know about season 2, viewers are in for a sexier spin on the science, along with a potentially darker exploration of sexual disorders and dysfunction.
Without getting into SPOILER territory, fans should know the second season kicks off immediately following the career-altering events of season 1, when Dr. Masters (Michael Sheen) shocked everyone with the candid and graphic presentation of his and Virginia's (Lizzy Caplan) sex study. Masters has to find a new professional home, make sense of his complicated relationship with Virginia, and try and support his wife and their newborn in the meanwhile.
We visited set during the filming of episode 9 and observed Sheen, Caplan and series newcomer Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad) filming a scene in their new examination room. Brandt's character is Masters' new secretary, and as with many of Masters' employees, becomes a participant in their study. In this particular case, Brandt's character is trying to work through a sexual disorder of some kind, which has Masters and Virginia at odds over how best to treat it and/or involve her in the study at all.
It should come as no surprise that Sheen, Caplan and Brandt are consummate professionals. The moment "Action!" is called they are all business, completely in character and performing the scene flawlessly; however, as soon as "Cut" is called, we were happy to see that the three actors had no trouble joking around and keeping things light on set. It makes for a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Speaking of which, during a break between setups, cast and crew used the downtime to celebrate a cast member's birthday, complete with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" and a large cake with candles.
In addition to observing the scene in the examination room, we also toured the new office space, which has a slightly more modern, office building-type feel - versus the hospital setting of the first season. We also saw the Masters' house and the set of a luxury hotel room- a location that plays an important part to the sexier spin we mentioned above (you can probably guess). The attention to detail is exquisite; you feel as though you've been transported into the 1960s. Everything from the furniture, to the muted colors and patterns, to the smell of the place (like walking into your grandparents' house or opening up a really old board game) feels like the most immaculate and authentic time-warp.
We were told that the set designers incorporate as many vintage pieces into the show as possible - clothing, furniture, props, etc. - which explains the old-timey scent. Interestingly enough, our favorite set piece was a bulletin board in Masters' office which was full of note cards labeled with various sexual dysfunctions and disorders. Why? Because if any of the various penile disorders written on the cards end up in the show, it could make for some excellent dark comedy.
We were only on set for a couple hours so it's impossible to judge an entire season based on watching one scene, but from the looks of things it seems like the second season builds upon the best elements of the first. We're getting to see more of Dr. Masters and Virginia's complex relationship and how their revolutionary work actually had an impact upon the medical community and our society.
And if you need a season one refresher following Sunday's premiere, check out the season one DVD/Blu-ray and all of its special features which include: in-depth conversations with Sheen and Caplan about their characters and on the Blu-ray, a featurette about Thomas Maier, the author of the book that inspired the show, and a summary of Masters and Johnson's greatest sex discoveries.
Masters of Sex Season 2 airs Sunday, July 13 on Showtime.
Masters of Sex Season 1 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.