Director Uta Briesewitz Got Caught Up in the Spirit of The Deuce

by Ashley Morton

The “What Kind of Bad” director discusses realistic sex-scenes, historically accurate dance moves, and why she always shoots the first take.

  • What drew you to this project?

  • To get the chance to work with David Simon again! What else do you need? And to get a chance to work with the great cast they put together, which had a couple of cast members I already knew back from The Wire, so it was like a little happy reunion. Of course the time period was very appealing to me — New York in the ‘70s — and I was also curious about the subject matter in terms of how to handle it. It sounded like a good challenge.

  • How do you tell a story about sex-work without making it voyeuristic?

  • You just have to be brutally honest with it. When we come to the sex scenes we’ve already introduced our characters — we feel for them, we see how they suffer, and the predicament they’re in. In general it’s pretty down and dirty; a quick business exchange. It’s very unglamorous.

    And also in terms of who we cast, the “johns” look like real guys. We have overweight, bald, normal people, paying for this service. The moment it’s over, there’s not even conversation everybody just pulls on their pants, and it’s like, “On to the next.” It’s so matter-of-fact and grim in its portrayal, I don’t think I had to be too concerned about it being appealing to anybody.

  • Do you feel like being a female director offers a different perspective to the story?

  • I think it puts you closer, and helps you relate. Female sexuality, and how we experience sexuality, differs from male sexuality. I wouldn’t say, “Women can do a better job,” not at all; I’d be saying my male colleagues don’t have understanding or empathy for their characters and that’s not it at all.

    As a director you have to be empathetic and have an understanding of your characters. But we [female directors] can dig into our own personal experience, and talk about things from a certain point of view. And I think it can help the female actors feel comfortable, because we can talk about certain things more easily.