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Mary & George’s Oliver Hermanus on directing queer sex scenes: ‘I learned a lot about orgies’

"That was an education"

By Alastair James

Mary & George
Tony Curran as King James and Nicholas Galitzine as George in Mary & George (Image: Sky UK)

The director of the historical fiction drama, Mary & George, has shared what education he got while filming the series.

Mary & George – available from 5 March – stars Julianne Moore and Nicholas Galitzine as the titular characters Mary and George Villiers. Based on a true story the series follows them as they manipulate their way to King James I of England VI of Scotland.

Speaking exclusively to Attitude on the red carpet at the show’s premiere in London on Wednesday (28 February) director Oliver Hermanus explained his approach to the moments of queer sex. He said: “I wanted any queer person seeing those scenes to feel like it was authentic and naturalistic and real and didn’t feel fake. We spent a lot of time talking about sex on this process.”

Elaborating further he told Attitude that filming orgy scenes was a particularly interesting experience. “Orgies are not easy to choreograph. I learned a lot about orgies on this job. That was an education,” he admitted.

Touching more broadly on the series, Hermanus said he couldn’t imagine Mary & George being made much earlier. “These kinds of scripts, this narrative, I doubt it. I think even just the fact that some of the things these characters say, 10 years ago you couldn’t say on television.”

“I might see where the next thing takes me” – Mary & George‘s Oliver Hermanus

On why it has taken so long to get a queer historical drama on screens Hermanus added: “We’re in that stage now where we’re getting an audience who are interested in these stories. And that means that companies are prepared to put money behind it. And this show is not cheap, so that’s good. So, we really got the opportunity to build and create a world.”

He also teased looking at other historical subjects and figures based on his experience with Mary & George. “Whenever you make something you always feel like you want to try something else. And now that I’ve done this, I might see where the next thing takes me.”

In Attitude’s review the show was described as a “sublime piece of historical fiction” that’s “hard to turn away from.”

All seven episodes of Mary & George will launch on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW on 5 March.