The Girlfriend Experience, indie filmmakers Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan’s unflinching examination of the high-end sex trade, was proudly edgy right out of the gate.
Produced by Steven Soderbergh, whose 2009 film of the same name inspired the anthology drama, the series prompted a spirited debate about whether it was prurient TV porn or a gutsy, woman-centric examination of sexual power, self-worth and capitalism. And though many of the show’s devoted fans hoped Season 2 would delve further into the dealings of Riley Keough’s student-slash-escort Christine Reade, they’re getting a whole new Experience instead.
The 14-episode Season 2 features hourlong episodes comprised of two separate 30-minute storylines — one penned by Seimetz, the other by Kerrigan — that run back-to-back. Kerrigan’s tale, set in Washington, D.C., during the 2018 midterm elections, concerns Republican super PAC finance director Erica Myles (Anna Friel, Pushing Daisies), who taps high-powered GFE provider Anna Greenwald (Billions’ Louisa Krause) to help her blackmail a shady fundraiser, leading the pair into a complex emotional and sexual relationship that upends their understanding of power. Seimetz’s story stars Selma’s Carmen Ejogo as Bria Jones, a former high-end escort who enters the Witness Protection Program with her young stepdaughter to escape an abusive relationship and finds that leaving the GFE lifestyle is tougher than she thought, even as her life is further endangered.
“It’s delving into subject matter that I’ve had a lot of back and forth with in terms of what I feel morally and judgmentally,” Ejogo says. “I’ve veered away from material that was too sexually explicit in the past because I never felt it was going to be handled in the right way. The world that Amy has constructed is one that is very much dominated by men. There are very few female characters in the piece other than myself and, as a result, you really feel what it’s like for a woman to be in a patriarchal society. This male energy is constantly coming at her from different directions, and you see a woman that is having to navigate and shape-shift in order to figure out how to circumvent that energy. How to harness that energy, and how to fend it off.”
Krause, a Season 1 superfan, says she petitioned Kerrigan for the Anna role using the character’s own signature boldness.
“Anna finds her career empowering,” exclaims Krause, who says the political atmosphere “adds flavor” to Anna and Erica’s merging worlds. “She is at the top of her game as a Girlfriend Experience provider. And she’s in love for the first time. That’s where it gets real exhilarating, because she’s entering this vulnerable place, and she has to navigate this new emotional territory. You see the love seeping into the professional world and then into the personal world and then into the sexual dynamic. There are role reversals and so many layers. It’s juicy!”
The Girlfriend Experience > Starz > Sundays beginning Nov. 5