In a new interview, Coffey shared how she helped evolve the creation of Outlander‘s infamous steamy moments, resulting in a safer work environment for both series leads Heughan and Caitriona Balfe and the younger supporting cast.
Before Outlander, Coffey worked on Fate: The Winx Saga, I Hate Suzie, BBC’s Rules of the Game, and War of the Worlds. But there was a unique series of events that led to her becoming an intimacy coordinator.
“I fell into it in quite a weird way,” Coffey told Digital Spy. “I worked as a lawyer in corporate law, and before that, I trained as a dancer. After law, I went and retrained as an actor, so I had these three seemingly unrelated things that were floating around. Then because of my work at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which is also where Sam Heughan studied, I started putting things in place for actors who were coming to me saying ‘Can we have a conversation about my nudity rider, or my contract?’ ‘What sorts of things can I put in place to make sure I am safe?’ or ‘What kind of choreography can I look at to make sure this scene is exactly what I want it to be?’”
Choreography is one thing Coffey thinks would surprise viewers the most about intimacy coordinating.
“There is a lot of movement background to it,” she said. “People sometimes come at this thinking this is just an agreement [between actors and directors], that it is about having open conversations, and of course it is about that, but there is a lot more to the role than that. It is very specific, and we come in with a host of movement tools that will really help the actors and support them in helping them make that distinction between character and actor.”
An intimacy coordinator doesn’t necessarily decrease the number of sex scenes in a series. In fact, Outlander Season 6 wasted no time showing one in the season premiere. But their job is to make sure every intimate moment serves a valid purpose. Heughan and Balfe have done this on their own since Season 1, advocating for what they’re comfortable with. But now, every Outlander sex scene has been planned out and choreographed months in advance before filming. And filming day has strict rules.
“I have a set of ‘closed set’ protocols that I always work to,” Coffey said. “And they are sent over to production well in advance, and part of those protocols set out who should be on a closed set. It is very limited. You can expect to have your DoP [director of photography], your director, your intimacy coordinator, your script supervisor, focus puller, you usually have a representative from costume, from make-up, so there are still a number of people who are there.”
“We also make sure that monitors are blocked off so that people aren’t watching a scene from elsewhere around the set, and also that the sound feed is cut as well,” she added. “We want to make sure the actors feel confident that they can vocalize all of the sounds that we need them to make in order to tell that story without feeling inhibited.”
Working with Heughan and Balfe was a breeze, according to Coffey, because “there is a lot of trust between Sam and Caitriona already and he has talked about that a lot in interviews, that they had already built up this very physical trust, and relationship between them.”
Heughan hiring Coffey meant he and Balfe had another team member in their corner to help create the scenes, but it also helped the younger cast members like Lauren Lyle (Marsali) and César Domboy (Fergus) film their first intimate scenes in a safe, supported environment.
Outlander, Sundays, 9/8c, Starz