In “Sex/Life”, societal expectations clash heavily with repressed desires to surprising results for everyone involved. The new Netflix series, which premieres its 8-episode first season June 25, follows restless housewife Billie (Sarah Shahi, “Person Of Interest”) as she struggles to reconcile her love for her husband and kids with her desire to return to the days of her wild youth.
The show takes the premise of its source material, 44 Chapters About 4 Men by B. B. Easton, and deconstructs it from every possible angle. When Billie’s steadfast but stoic husband Cooper (Mike Vogel, “Fantasy Island”) finds a journal in which she’s written all her fantasies about ex-boyfriend Brad (Adam Demos, “UnREAL”), he does everything in his power to fulfill her needs. But is their marriage too far gone?
Vogel spoke to Screen Rant about Cooper’s layers, his take on keeping a marriage alive, and the secret to overcoming the awkwardness of intimate scenes.
I love how Cooper is a whole character in his own right, who is neither villainized nor an angel. Can you start by telling me how Cooper feels about the state of his marriage before he’s made aware of what’s going on with his wife?
Mike Vogel: “Yeah, I think the marriage between Billie and Cooper will encapsulate so many marriages and so many long relationships right now, especially over the course of the last year of people having a lot of time to sit still and be confined; taking account of life and where it’s at. Over long relationship, we develop blind spots; we develop these areas where you think you’ve created this perfect life and this perfect marriage and this perfect family and perfect home.
I think that’s where Cooper is. He says, “Okay, I’ve got this taken care of. We’ve got the kids taken care of. Let’s concentrate over here on the career and this other thing.” And in doing so, he doesn’t realize these feelings that have been stirring in his wife. When he comes to realize that, it asks the question, “Is it too late, or is this something that still can be fought for?” And Cooper’s wanting to be up for that challenge”.
Not only does “Sex/Life” seem like a really COVID-unfriendly show, but just in general, it’s got to be really nerve-wracking to have so many intimate scenes with your onscreen partner. What do you and Sarah do to make sure that everyone is comfortable?
Mike Vogel: “We started filming this show three weeks prior to the world shutting down. And then the world shut down, and you ask yourself the question of, “How in the world are we going to shoot a show that people said should not be able to be filmed in this environment?”. We did, and that’s a testament to the amazing crew we had in Toronto, the creative team behind the show, and also this cast. In a way, it was a bit of a blessing, because the four of us were the only people we could hang out with during that time; to stay separated from everyone else and stay healthy. It creates this trust.
It was kind of funny that, literally day two, we were into filming an intimate scene right off the bat. You’re doing so much of it over the course of the show that, by the time we finished, everyone’s throwing our clothes at us. And we’re like, “No, no, we’re good”. “No, put these on. You have to put these on”. “No, no, I’m good. I’m fine”. You see how those inhibitions come down over the course of filming something like this”.
If you had to give one piece of advice to Cooper, or to a man in Cooper’s situation, what would you say to them? Either based on your own experience or the experience on the show.
Mike Vogel: “The biggest advice I was given years ago is, which someone said to me, “Husbands, don’t ever stop dating your wives”. And you laugh at that, but then you realize over the course of a relationship, don’t stop dating your spouse. There’s going to be a lot of things and a lot of ways that time wants to erode the freshness and the specialness of what you’ve built. That’s the job: to figure out how to work around that. I think that’s something that Cooper needs to pay a little attention to”.