Michael Sheen is known best for his film work, but he’s following the legions of other established actors who are making their way to the small screen. Up next, Sheen is starring in Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” which tells the story of William Masters and Virginia Johnson as they spearheaded forward-thinking research about sex and the way it affects the body in the late 1950s.
“Masters of Sex” held its first TCA panel on July 30, and the night before Zap2it caught up with Sheen at CBS’s TCA party to talk about what drew him to the project. According to Sheen, he was hooked from the moment he read the pilot script.
“I thought it was very well written. I thought it was about a really fascinating subject. I thought it was something that had a chance to be very popular because of what the subject is that it’s about, but in a way that was a real serious exploration of it,” Sheen says. “I loved the character. I thought it was a really interesting character, very different character for me as well. So I thought that it would be something that would work very well over a sustained period of time.”
He continues, “It’s always a risk because you’re signing on to something really on the basis of one script and it’s something that you might end up doing for years and years and years. It was a risk, but I thoroughly enjoyed doing the first season. I’ve had a great time, so I’m really hoping that we get to carry on.”
Showtime is no stranger to exploring the subject of sex, but the network does so in very different way with this show. Sheen compares his character’s studies and Showtime delving into the “taboo subject” of sex.
“I think when Bill Masters, who I play, began his study, it was such a taboo subject, sex and sexuality. There was nothing out there about it. No one had really done any study of it,” he says. “Now we’re just inundated by images of sex and sexuality, you know? It’s everywhere and we’re really saturated by it and yet it’s still just as problematic. It’s still just as difficult for people to deal with each other and to deal with having sex with each other and everything that that brings up.”
It’s no secret that Masters and Johnson went from being partners to marrying (and later divorcing), but that journey stretched out over decades. “Masters of Sex” likely won’t get to their marriage in Season 1 as there are about 25 years between when Masters and Johnson met and when they wed, but Sheen does say that there will definitely be exploration of their relationship.
“They met, Virginia and Bill, as work colleagues. Virginia was Bill’s secretary, but there was clearly something that kind of drew them to each other,” Sheen says. “Their lives became so entwined in so many different ways right up to the end. Virginia only died this week, and right up until the end it was still very, very mysterious what the true nature of their relationship was. I think that is something hopefully that people will find compelling, that you’re never quite sure what is going on between them.”
“Masters of Sex” premieres on Showtime Sept. 29 at 10 p.m.