Masters of Sex is currently airing Season 3 on Showtime and what a long way we’ve come. Based on the true story of Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson, the drama charts their landmark sex research through the decades, and all the dramatic consequences it causes in their personal life.
This season has moved from the late ‘60s into the ‘70s, as Masters (Michael Sheen) and Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) published their book. Furthering their study, they take on the business of perfumier Dan Logan (Josh Charles). The cast and producers of Masters of Sex gave a panel for the Television Critics Association and we were there to learn more about the future of the show. Here are six things we learned about Masters of Sex.
Virginia’s Baby Was Made Up To Protect The Real Johnsons
We all know that Masters of Sex is a dramatization of real events, and the credits even make sure we know this isn’t 100% real. The kids on the show are named after the real children Masters and Johnson had, but their stories are the most fictionalized. In fact, Johnson has a third baby this season, which she never did in real life. Series creator Michelle Ashford revealed she was asked to add a fictional child as a way to protect the real life Johnson family.
“We were advised to add children to protect the people that are still alive,” Ashford said. “It wasn’t a storytelling prerogative. It had to do with protecting living people. We are telling a nonfiction story and one where there are people who are still alive out there in the world, and those people need to be protected, and that is the way of protecting them.”
The Rest Is True
So aside from the fake baby, everything pertaining to Masters and Johnson on Masters of Sex is true. Their lives and careers were pretty well documented, so Ashford had a lot of material to pull from.
“We’re still adhering closely to what actually happened,” Ashford said. “This book came out in ’66, and it sort of opened the door for a thriving sort of practice, bringing couples in, so we do a lot of that. There’s more of that coming down the road and there’s a couple things that are heightened a bit, but actually the events that transpire all the way to the end of the season have all their basis in fact. So we do try.”
Bill and Libby Get Divorced Soon
In real life, Masters married Johnson in 1971. Since the show is already in the ‘70s, that means his marriage to Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald) is doomed.
“With the relationship with Libby, we played a scene the other day where it became clear the relationship was over,” Sheen said. “But we’ve never seen the scene where they go, ‘This relationship is over!’ I feel like that’s what life is like. You kind of realize oh sh*t, the damage is done and I kind of missed when that was happening. We never mark that somehow but here we are and it’s irreversible now.”
Dan Logan is Real Too
Josh Charles joined Masters of Sex this season as Dan Logan, the businessman who made his money in the perfume trade. Logan is based on a real investor who funded Masters and Johnson’s research at this point.
“It’s a fascinating part of their story, the Masters and Johnson’s story, that this man came into their world as an investor, and then it got incredibly complicated,” Ashford said. “We knew it was a really significant role, and we just thought: who is the greatest actor in the world to play it?”
For his part, Charles said it was easy to join the cast and bring authenticity to the role. “I read some of the stuff that Michelle sent me about the gentleman that it’s based on, and I think that was about the extent of it,” Charles said.
The ‘70s Could Last Two More Seasons
Time has been flexible on Masters of Sex. We could be going along day to day and then suddenly jump five years, or skip ahead to the next decade. Producer Sarah Timberman feels there’s a lot of fertile ground to cover in the ‘70s.
“Whether the ’70s extends through one more season or two more seasons is yet to be determined, but there’s so much to mine in the ’70s in terms of their story,” Timberman said.
Ashford added that the ‘70s aren’t the end of Masters of Sex either. “Even the ’80s they ran into some sort of remarkable and sort of disastrous things late in their career, and that’s all really fascinating,” Ashford said. “So there’s still a lot of story, which is one of the reasons this story was so appealing to us in the beginning, but it does have a real natural life and an end.”
The Research Expands This Season
As much as Masters and Johnson have had to deal with financial realities, they are still scientists. This season will see them add new studies to their research.
“This season their success as businesspeople and their publishing the book kind of spurs them on and they return to the lab,” Timberman said. “Also surrogacy becomes a really interesting part of their work. I don’t want to give away where we’re headed, but if you read Thom [Maier]’s book, you know something about that. It became very controversial.”
Caplan spoke a little about how publishing the research changed things for Masters and Johnson. “The study up until this point was very much only theirs,” Caplan said. “And now as they open it up to the rest of the world, it has been very interesting to play all of that. It’s giving up our baby to everybody else.”