After claiming the Golden Globes for Best Drama and Best Actress for its inaugural season, Showtime’s hit series “The Affair” is back on the air with double (!) the perspectives. This Tuesday, the cast members, Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Joshua Jackson, Maura Tierney, Josh Stamberg, and Julia Goldani Telles, as well as the show’s creator Sarah Treem came together for a panel at the Paley Center for Media as part of PaleyFest. They shed light on the show’s controversial subject material, its bold structure, and its trajectory as the second season heats up.
The series looks at an affair from the dueling perspectives of a frustrated novelist (West) and a waitress (Wilson), who is grieving over the death of her child. More than just being about infidelity, however, “The Affair” is an exploration of truth and an investigation into the flexibility of memory, built on nuanced storytelling and multi-layered performances. Notably, each show is divided into parts split into the respective POVs of the adulterers, summoning drama from the minute details which differentiate each person’s memories from another. Whereas the first season only told the story from the divergent perspectives of Noah Solloway (West) and Alison Lockhart (Wilson), Season 2 complicates matters even further through the added vantage points of Helen Solloway (Tierney) and Cole Lockhart (Jackson).
Check out some hilarious highlights from Tuesday night’s highly entertaining panel below.
Dominic West Needs to Remind Himself That He’s Not Noah Solloway
As we have come to expect of him, a self-deprecating Dominic West once again charmed his audience at the Paley Center. West admitted that “Everyone hates Noah,” but that playing a “total asshole” is “remarkably easy” for him. When asked if he has to constantly remind people that he is not the adulterous character he plays on screen, he answered with a blunt “Yes.” After a pause, West said, “He is obviously very different to me, but there’s so much that’s like me — he lives in the city, he doesn’t have a proper job [laughs], he’s got too many children — I thought it’s me basically, I better do an accent. [laughs]”
“In this season, I think essentially he gets everything he’s ever dreamt of and he gets enormous fame and success, so that’s where our two lives have diverged slightly [laughs], so I’m enjoying playing that,” West continued.
The Cast Doesn’t Get How You Can Watch With Your Spouse
The cast was repeatedly prodded to reveal how their experience on the show has affected their personal relationships with their partners. West, for one, managed to slightly evade the question, noting that, “Fortunately my wife doesn’t watch it, so we don’t get to discuss it, thank goodness. She watched bits. I think she had seen enough of my ass.”
When the moderator revealed that she enjoys watching the show with her spouse, the entire cast sat in disbelief. Wilson wondered, “And do you discuss it afterwards or do you just sit there awkwardly?”
Fascinated, Jackson continued, “Let me ask you this: When you’re watching together, do you ever make eye contact during the entire episode?”
Treem then put it another way: “I have a friend who says he watches ‘The Affair’ and his wife watches him watching ‘The Affair.'”
Dom Learned to Underwater Act
“The Affair” is filled with scenes in which Noah and Alison have to act underwater. And as West recounted, “Underwater acting is really hard. I can now blush on camera — underwater acting, not many people can do that.” Referencing the difficulties of shooting a particularly tricky pool scene, West remembered, “[The director] said, ‘You just swim through here and swim through here and then you open your eyes underwater and you see this vision of a crash.’ And I said, ‘How the fuck do you do that?’ [laughs]”
“I wish I’d seen it, it felt ridiculous at the time.” Feigning his underwater struggles, Dominic recounted, “All I could see was chlorine in my eyes. I couldn’t see where the camera was.”
How a Blowjob Outtake Could Have Caused Cockgate Part Two
When asked whether her characters always see themselves in the most positive light, Sarah Treem noted that actually, “I think it has a lot to do with how the character’s feeling about themselves. Sometimes when they’re feeling particularly guilty or down on themselves, they see themselves as worse.”
Joshua Jackson pointed out, that his character, Cole “wasn’t really seeing himself in too positive a light in episode two.” He added, “The drunk driving, cocaine, threatening to run your brother over, and did the blowjob stay in?”
Treem admitted that it was taken out but explained her rationale, saying that “the thinking was ‘How could it be that bad a night, if he just got a random blow job?'”
“Fair enough,” Jackson then conceded.
“Is there a director’s cut?” West asked.
Treem’s decision surely prevented another wave of what West called “Cockgate” prior to the panel, referencing the media storm that followed a full-frontal scene in the show’s Season 2 premiere.
Sarah Treem is Not Even Slightly Concerned With Providing an Objective Viewpoint
A common criticism of the show after its first season was its lack of a reliable narrator and an objective truth. Treem responded by saying, “I’m shocked that anybody thinks that they have an objective viewpoint. I mean not even the camera has an objective viewpoint. When you watch a film, it’s not objective. The camera has a perspective.”
Treem then continued, “There’s no such thing as a narrative that doesn’t have a point-of-view. It’s just part of being human. And it’s what makes relationships with other people so difficult at times. By virtue of being inside your own head, you’re trapped in what you can see. Somebody else is having a radically different experience and you have no access to it and then you have to try to communicate with them, that’s hard.”
On How Many More Perspectives We Can Expect
After Season 2 doubled the number of perspectives presented onscreen, Treem admitted, “I have this fantasy of just expanding and expanding, but I don’t think we’ll do that. I think we’re going to stop at four.”
She then added, “But as other characters come in and everyone’s so interesting and everybody’s so good, I wonder, ‘Oh, I wonder what that perspective would look like?'”
To which West sarcastically asked, “What’s the dog called?”
The Show Tackles Infidelity Without Romanticizing It
Speaking to why she made a show about infidelity, Treem said that her objective is first and foremost to tell a story as truthfully as possible. “We weren’t trying to tell an idealized version of an affair. I remember everybody saying when the show first came out, ‘Oh, I’m not going to watch anything that romanticizes an affair.’ Then, watch our show.”
West added that “The point of having a show called ‘The Affair’ is that everyone has an opinion on affairs and infidelity. It’s something we all feel and know about. So I think very strong feelings come out and you can’t help but see your own life in it.”
Alice Morgan Would Wreak Havoc on Montauk
When the cast was asked how the other characters they have played would exist within “The Affair” universe, Ruth Wilson instantly brought up her character Alice Morgan from “Luther.” “She would wreak havoc on Montauk. She would kill everyone. It’d be great fun.”
To laughs, Maura Tierney then added, “I once played Kirk Cameron’s girlfriend in ‘Growing Pains’ and I think she’d have a real good time. And I was fired.”
“The Affair” is Killing it in the Divorce Community
During the audience Q&A segment, a divorce lawyer revealed that since the “The Affair” has been on the air, countless numbers of his clients have been bringing up the show as a way of questioning their own relationships to their spouses. When the lawyer then asked the panel to respond to how the show is reverberating in the divorce community today, Jackson firmly replied, “Can I say that if you’re so paranoid about your spouse having an affair that a TV show is what tips you over the edge, it’s probably not the TV show.”
Treem followed up by recalling that during her work on “In Treatment,” the psychology community also became somewhat influenced by the ideas raised in the show. She attributed it to the rising power of television, saying, “I think it means that television has become a medium by which the culture now understands itself. When they say it’s the ‘Golden Age of Television,’ I think that’s what it means.”
PaleyFest New York continues at the Paley Center for Media from October 10 until October 19.