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'Femme Fatales' Creators Discuss Topic of Nudity

When Cinemax’s “Femme Fatales” first hit the breakdowns, many actors and their reps might have skimmed over it, seen the “nudity required” note, thought it was a "skinemax"-type show, and passed it by. Had they looked a little closer, they would have seen creators/executive producers Mark A. Altman (“Necessary Roughness”, “Castle”) and Steve Kriozere (“Necessary Roughness”, “NCIS”) attached, and realized this show was legit.  FemmeFatales

“Femme Fatales” is being called a female-centric film noir “Twilight Zone” and has actors like Vivica A. Fox, Jeff Fahey, and Robert LaSardo signing on for episodes. Shows with quality writing and strong fan bases like “Game of Thrones”, “Spartacus”, “Californication”, “Shameless”, “The L Word”, and "Femme Fatales" have more and more actors considering doing nudity and erotic content. Back Stage sat down to discuss this topic at Comic-Con with Altman, Kriozere, and some of the “Fatales” themselves – Tiffany Brouwer, Melissa Paulo, and Madison Dylan

Back Stage: Can you explain to actors who are considering doing nudity what auditioning and working on your show is like?

Mark A. Altman: Anyone who’s a respectable show is going to have on their breakdown that there is nudity and what the nudity is. People who feel comfortable with it should audition. We never want to put anyone in a situation that makes him or her uncomfortable.

Steve Kriozere: Ask questions early, at the audition or even before because then there are no surprises. We are very upfront about everything.

Altman: Ask, “When you describe this love scene, what are you going to show and what are you not going to show?” It’s much better to deal with these problems earlier rather than on set. We’re very fortunate, we’ve had a lot of talent, men and women, that had never done nudity before but they were attracted so much to the quality of the scripts, they were willing to do it. I can’t tell you how many people said, “I’m glad I did this, I found this immensely liberating. You guys are so protective.” We’re very tough with our closed sets.

Kriozere: When we [film] those scenes, it’s only the bare bones people who need to be there. Plus, a lot of the crew is already women. It should be a comfortable environment.

Altman: We only had a problem with one actor, ever, in term of a nude scene. Even their agents and manager were upset with them because we’d been very upfront with them. It was very clear on the breakdown, it was very clear in the script, and they balked on set. It was upsetting because it’s time and money lost, which we can’t get back. It impacts ultimately the quality of what you’re doing. I’d much rather you be upfront and not audition for that role or not take that role than to come and waste everybody’s time.

Kriozere: We’ve filmed over 20 episodes now and the word has all been positive.

Back Stage: Actors, was the nudity a concern for you?

Tiffany Brouwer: I talked the nudity over with my agency. Considering who was attached, that it was a new series, and HBO was attached as well, we knew they were going to do a really good job shooting it. It wasn’t full nudity; there were certain restrictions.

Madison Dylan: Two years ago I probably would have been like, “It’s not my thing.” But meeting these people and seeing the style, how these new shows are coming out and how they do everything, it’s not like skinemax there’s actually a plot to it and it has a cool story line, and these guys they know what they’re doing. They work on “Castle” and “NCIS”. It was a lot of fun. And you know what? Showing my boobs was actually very freeing for me.

Melissa Paulo: It’s not so much of a faux pas anymore. We’re a different generation. This show is being done in a way where the women aren’t being exploited, it’s just part of the show. It’s part of what it’s about. If you’re not comfortable with it, don’t do it. If you are, do it.

Brouwer: I think it’s really important – the context and how they’re shooting it. They’re shooting it in good taste. It’s not raunchy. They’re doing it classy.

Back Stage: How was it shooting your first nude scene?

Dylan: They made me feel completely comfortable before. They came to my trailer before and were like, “This is what we’re doing. Are you okay with it?” They are so thoughtful, so caring, and it was just a great experience. Mark was like, “Don’t worry, the lighting’s great,” all this stuff, just making you feel really comfortable. I’m so grateful. It is a really good show. Sexy but has a whole plotline to it. Girls in charge and kicking ass!

Back Stage: Mark and Steve, how is working on this show different from working on one of your network shows?

Altman: We joke this is our hobby because it’s a chance to do the kind of storytelling we can’t do on network television. It’s really just an excuse to work with people we like and tell the kind of stories we couldn’t tell [on our other shows]. It’s very satisfying. We work with really good actors. On our abbreviated schedules, people have to show up, know their lines, and there’s not a ton of time for rehearsal. We’re getting really great talent. That was a challenge with the first season when no one had seen the show. They knew it was for Cinemax, but knowing our credits they knew there would be a certain level of quality and professionalism. So even though a lot of people considered it a risk that they jumped on board, they were really rewarded because it looked great, they got great footage for their reel. The show looks so awesome. American Cinematographer just did an article on the DP.

Back Stage: Any advice for the actors who will be auditioning for you?

Altman: Obviously we like when people know the material. Not that they have to be off book. They can be on book but know the show and make an effort to know what it’s about. Enthusiasm is always good. Don’t overstay your welcome. We’ve been lucky to have great casting directors on the show. The first season we had Sari Knight and Mandy Sherman who had done “Lost”. That really helped. When they had to go off to do a movie, we brought in Christine Sheaks who did “Boogie Nights”. I’ve worked with her in the past and I love her. She is a passionate advocate for the show. She’s elevated the show with even better actors, attracting even better talent. It has just been a pleasure to work with people of their caliber because we all love actors. I think you get that in the room. We have people come back again and again.

--Jessica Gardner

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