It’s also another important part of the Masters and Johnson legacy. They did a lot of work with sexual dysfunction, and we tap on that in this season, which is exciting because it’s going to lead us to what’s next in the future of not only our show, but into the dynamic of their study because that is such an important part of sexual history was helping people with sexual dysfunction, and helping people understand that sex is not wrong, sex is not bad, and any sort of sexual dysfunction can be helped. I think that’s part of the approach that we took with the scene.
One of the great things about the show is that it's about not demonizing female sexuality. Was that something you thought about doing this scene from Betty’s perspective?
Absolutely. Especially back in the late 1960s a young girl who is having strong sexual urges and in many ways I feel this character, her name is Rose, Rose is having urges and feelings that no one can even talk to her about or help her about. That is a problem even more because she’s a woman. Not only is she only a lower social status in the late 1950s society, but it was before the birth control pill so she can get pregnant, and when you grew up in an upper middle class family, wealthier family, that was a scandal that was not acceptable. So you have this young girl that really has no options and no help and no one to talk because this topic is so taboo. So I think it definitely touches on the woman’s place in society at that time and how sexually they were forced into such a submissive role in the way that they were forced into a submissive role in life.
That applies to Betty too. Obviously her marriage took her out of a terrible situation, but in her next life she has to try to submit to her husband's wishes, which is a family.
Absolutely. The first couple of episodes shed light on the mountains of secrets that Betty has hidden away from her husband. Dramatically that’s interesting because you can only keep so many secrets for so long, and she has so many from her past life. Also it’s interesting to watch a strong woman give up that strength and give up her life for a man because she knows that’s the only way she can progress on the social ladder.
I wanted to ask how you came up with her accent. She is really the only character on the show, which takes place in St. Louis, with the midwest dialect.
St. Louis is a very interesting city in terms of accents. I actually have some family that’s from Missouri and my husband is an outrageous St. Louis Cardinals fan, so we got to St. Louis every once in a while to go see baseball games. The regional dialect is a light midwest dialect, so you don’t hear much of a dialect. Then there are parts of Missouri just south of St. Louis where there are hints of a southern accent, and when you go north and more towards Chicago it starts sounding much more like the Chicago area. When we were creating the pilot, I did a cold read for Betty and originally they were supposed to be at a Chinese restaurant and for some reason when I read it out loud it just came out as a Brooklyn accent. I got the job from that cold read—it was so crazy—and then I remember getting a call from John Madden before we shot the pilot saying that he loved the accent but we’re going to have to explain why you went from New York to St. Louis. So we created a backstory that she came down from the Chicago area to St. Louis because they are very close to each other to get away from her family, and found work as a prostitute. I modeled my accent after an area that actually my husband comes from that’s in between Gurnee, Ill. and Kenosha, Wisconsin, everything in that part of the country is very flat sounding and it just made a lot of sense for Betty, and it also makes sense as one of the regional dialects for St. Louis.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.