With producing partner Sarah Timberman, Ashford brought the book to HBO and FX, but also to brand-new Showtime executive David Nevins, who immediately grasped the possibilities.Sure, the subject of sex was a lure for a premium cable programmer, but “not in the way you might think,” Ashford said.
“It’s a complicated show, with some science, some soap opera elements. Everyone is working so hard to figure these stories out and get the right tone that there’s no time for who’s getting what idea in or who’s winning in the room. While we watch what they’re exploring in terms of intimacy and sex, the fact that they do end up married.
Our brains are turned into pretzels.” They’ve created composite characters, such as Masters’ mentor, closeted gay obstetrician Barton Scully (Beau Bridges), and fictional ones, such as Scully’s sex-starved wife (Allison Janney). But we ended Season 3 with them completely estranged and her going off to marry someone else. ” In real life, Johnson did get close to marrying a perfume businessman, and at the end of Season 3 Masters thinks all is lost.
Both scored Emmy nominations, along with Lizzy Caplan as Johnson; for his portrayal of Masters, Michael Sheen was nominated for a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award. “It was a real turning point in their relationship and in her life,” said Ashford.
Amazingly, the “Masters of Sex” writers have delivered three 12-episode seasons so far, without knowing when the show would end. During Season 3, Johnson continued to embody a new awareness for the period of what women can do in the workplace, which is fun to watch unfold.
As Masters gets more agitated about Johnson’s budding romance, he arranges a New York dinner with Johnson, scent magnate Don Logan (Josh Charles), and Logan’s long-suffering wife (Judy Greer, who will return in Season 4). Ashford loves it when they write scenes that are “much more like a play, when you watch the dynamics like a piece of theater.
Once we find people we love, we always bring them back, which is one of the joys of the show.” How Masters and Johnson rationalize and deny their strange hidden behavior is one of the show’s enduring mysteries.
Many smart people in the ’50s and ’60s “were not self-aware,” said Ashford.
“They were not like now, where everyone has their head shrunk to the size of a pin.
They did what many people do now—there was a lot of denial about behavior, a lot of their behavior is compartmentalized.