‘Outlander’ Intimacy Coordinator Details Exactly How Much It Takes to Shoot Those Scenes

Outlander has featured numerous steamy moments between Jamie and Claire Fraser (Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe) in the first six seasons. But they aren’t just gratuitous sex scenes, they are an important part of Jamie and Claire’s story. Filming these scenes, though, is quite the challenge. That’s why star and executive producer Heughan hired intimacy coordinator Vanessa Coffey for season 6 and beyond.

Outlander season 6 Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton embrace as Robert and Brianna in an official image
Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton in season 6 of ‘Outlander’ | STARZ

‘Outlander’ intimacy coordinator says the show needs these moments of love

Heughan hired Coffey to work with the cast on the intimate moments ahead of season 6. Which included steamy scenes between Jamie and Claire, Fergus (César Domboy) and Marsali (Lauren Lyle), and Young Ian (John Bell) and his Native American wife Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa (Morgan Holmstrom).

After five seasons of essentially winging it, Heughan thought it was important to bring Coffey in to help with everything from choreography to actor comfort levels. She knew that these scenes were “a big part of the books,” but they often happen amid dark storylines and violence.

“I think there’s also a lot of violence in the books and in the show and we need these moments of respite, these moments of love because that earns us those of violence, of the terror that happens,” Coffey told Express.

So what does an intimacy coordinator actually do? Coffey is a communication liaison between actors, directors, writers, and showrunners for every intimate scene, and it’s her job to have every single detail of the scene prepared for maximum impact.

“That’s everything from a discussion about whether the characters go through to orgasm; what we think that might sound like; what the particular movements might be; the length of the scene we’re trying to film; what the overall story arc is; [and] making sure we hit all over that within the choreography,” Coffey explained.

Jamie and Claire’s marriage is ‘hopeful for people’ claims Vanessa Coffey

Outlander Season 6 only featured eight episodes, but a lot happened in a short amount of time. Coffey noted that last season was “a really hard season to watch, in a way, because there’s a lot that happens with those characters that’s very dark in some cases.”

“The love scenes give us levity, but sometimes just a deeper insight into how those characters really respond to one another,” Coffey explained. “You see through Jamie and Claire a marriage that really works in spite of everything that goes on around them. That’s quite hopeful for people.”

On the other hand, Coffey says intimate moments like what fans saw between Young Ian and his wife have a different impact.

“We see the tragedy of that relationship but we need the beautiful, intimate, romantic moments between them for the loss to mean anything,” she said.

‘Outlander’ sex scenes strike a balance between light and dark moments

Coffey’s job didn’t just deal with the lovemaking moments on Outlander. She also had to handle depictions of sexual assault and violence. She noted that the darker moments are just as deeply ingrained as the lighter ones. And those dark scenes are classified as intimate and fall under her purview. 

Season 6 saw Malva Christie (Jessica Reynolds) get beaten by her father in a scene that featured partial nudity. Coffey says that these scenes have a “huge effect” on viewers and they are treated accordingly.

“They are treated with a great deal of respect by the writers’ room, I think. They’re given a lot of space within the script, in the same way they are in Diana’s [Gabaldon] books,” Coffey said.

“I think it’s a real reflection. They do reflect those scenes really well in the series and there’s just something that really connects for people when they watch them. Whether it’s something awful to be watching or something that’s beautiful and deep and loving. There’s just something that’s really human about how people are connecting with that.”

Coffey is currently working on Outlander Season 7, which will premiere on Starz in early 2023.

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