When you see Maggie Gyllenhaal talking about “The Deuce” you can instantly sense the fire that made her so eager to tell the story of 1970’s sex workers in Times Square that she requested a producing credit.
“We are making a piece about pornography and about a marginalized group in our culture. Do we not tell their story? Is it better to just push it under a rock? No! It’s better to respectfully, honestly, truthfully explore this group of people that I don’t think very often have been honestly portrayed in TV and film,” Gyllenhaal, who plays prostitute Candy, explained at the New York premiere for “The Deuce”.
Gyllenhaal believes that the show has come at exactly the right time, too, especially because of who is currently in The White House.
“I also think it’s a really interesting time to be looking at misogyny, and our relationship to sex, power, and our ability to make money and be thinking members of our culture. Even though we were shooting it in the summer, and Trump wasn’t elected, we finished a week before he was elected and it was bubbling under everything that he was doing. Particularly because now he has been elected and there is a misogynist in office I think it’s an amazing time to be talking about a project and putting a project out that is in a large part a smart exploration of misogyny.”
The topic of misogyny, and “The Deuce’s” exploration of this subject, is at the forefront of the cast and crew’s minds. James Franco, who as well as portraying twin brothers Vincent and Frankie Martino is an executive producer, echoed Gyllenhaal’s thoughts, stating that he hopes the show can help to change minds.
“One of the main things is that it is a very multi-colored, multi-layered portrait of an industry and culture where misogyny is deeply, deeply rooted into it. Hopefully it will change attitudes and make people more sympathetic,” Franco remarked. “This show has all the right intentions and you couldn’t ask for a better group to approach it head on”
The main draw for most of “The Deuce’s” terrific ensemble was the writing talent of David Simon, who has drawn widespread acclaim for “The Wire,” “Generation Kill,” “Treme” and “Show Me A Hero.” But while the cast trusted Simon and his co-creator George Pelecanos to create scripts that richly evoked the 1970s while still being timely, the pair knew they needed to have plenty of women on board in order to avoid disaster.
“It was essential that we had a female director to set the template,” Simon explained to me at the premiere. “This couldn’t be the boy’s version. It needed to have women throughout its production. In the writer’s room, directors, department heads, everyone needed to be empowered. If this was the guy’s version of sex work, it would have been a disaster in the making."
Thankfully they were able to get one of the best female directors in television to direct their pilot episode, as Michelle MacLaren brought their Times Square to life. But she had her own concerns, too. “It was important to me that we weren’t gratuitous or salacious, and that we were authentic and raw and real, and that was exactly what was important to David and George, as well.”
With the stakes so high, everyone involved in “The Deuce” knew that a modern audience wouldn’t forgive a carefree and indecent take on these topics and characters. You can double check that they haven’t when “The Deuce” airs Sundays on HBO at 9pm EST.