SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read if you haven’t seen “A Dazzling Conversation About a Deadly Pesticide” and “They Happened to Me,” episodes 9 and 10 of “Minx.”
“You didn’t ask me about working with dongs!” says Lennon Parham at the end of an interview about her role in “Minx”. “That was a first. In one scene an actor, Nate [Crnkovich]She wore a prosthesis [penis], and it was captivating. We were totally shocked and couldn’t look away. Then everyone got used to it.”
That’s life, Parham surmises, when you’re shooting ’70s pornography, which is what the characters in “Minx” do. Created by Ellen Rapoport, the HBO Max comedy stars Parham as Shelly, the older sister of Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond). Joyce has just launched the feminist magazine she’s dreamed of her whole life, with a catch: the only person who would help her get it off the ground is Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson), an adult magazine editor . Thus Minx is born, becoming the first porn magazine aimed at female readers (and containing male…members).
When Shelly first appears in the pilot, she comes across as the platonic ideal of a ’70s housewife. But as the season progresses, it becomes apparent that she’s more outgoing than her sister, who is an activist. Joyce is terrified to talk about sex or indulge in sex from the start until Shelly gently shoves her and reveals that she owns vibrators and enjoys looking at the men who appear on the pages of Minx. At the same time, she begins to further explore her own sexuality. After admitting to her husband Lenny (Rich Sommer) that he doesn’t satisfy her in bed, she tries to escape into fantasies featuring Fabio-like characters in elaborate costumes, but becomes too distracted and anxious for that to work . Instead, she dons lingerie and poses in front of a camera held by Bambi (Jessica Lowe), a former nude model who now works behind the scenes at Minx trying to help her find her groove. Bambi gently encourages Shelly, who finally realizes who is making her feel good – she grabs Bambi and kisses her. They spend the night together but the next day Shelly goes back to Lenny and gives him the photos Bambi took.
With Season 1 now wrapped on HBO Max, Parham spoke up diversity about getting dirty as a liberated woman of the ’70s.
Tell me about your first participation in “Minx”.
I got an email that said, “Would you like to get on tape for this 70’s porn comedy?” And, well, they had me on the 70’s porn comedy. It was like the funniest pilot script I had read in years. We went through the traditional process. We shot the pilot – before vaccines – in downtown LA, and it clicked from the start. It feels totally fresh. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. I think it’s a pleasure to watch them edit it intelligently with quick cuts. It keeps you on that forward moving train.
ellen [Rapaport] was very communicative and generous and sharing. It makes you feel respected and included and included, no matter the size of your role. She texted me, “Hey, do you have five minutes? I just want to give you Shelly’s arc.” Because I was about to have a fitting and she didn’t want me to go into it and try on corsets and lingerie and I have no idea why. Shelly’s wardrobe shifts a bit. As she loosens up, her wardrobe loosens up. So she wanted to take me through it and I was appalled. I was so excited. It’s just so much fun playing a real life character arc, you know?
What were your first impressions of Shelly? At first she seems like the typical American housewife, but turns out she’s more of a badass than Joyce, who is the outward feminist.
We meet Shelly through Joyce’s lens. Joyce doesn’t know anything about it [Shelly’s sex life]. The culture at the home was that we don’t talk about it. The culture back then was that we didn’t talk about it. It sounded to me like Shelly would only talk about sex with her hairdresser. So at first the extent of Shelley’s frankness wasn’t clear, but we see that in 1972 she lived the life of a woman. She had children in the late 50s. Joyce is the textbook feminist but lacks street smarts. She read all the books but she didn’t apply it to real life. Shelly, having lived this life, is more open to the aspects of feminism that haven’t been talked about. She kind of lived them secretly.
What kind of research or preparation did you do to place yourself in this 70’s era?
I researched some of the sexy stuff because I really wanted to nail that part and deliver it with a level of respect related to that relationship. She’s taking this big risk. So I looked at some things for it. But to be honest, I was born in 1975 and – this is going to sound weird – I feel like a backup singer for Donna Summer or something in the early 70’s. I understand this genre of music on a cellular level. That doesn’t make sense considering I’m an 80’s kid, really, but yeah. I didn’t have to do much research. And I surrounded myself with the music. When I drove to the set, I would listen to the greatest hits of 1970. And my dad had all the tapes too growing up, so I’ve got all those lyrics in my head forever. They also did a lot of research for the makeup and wardrobe. This was an easy entry point into it. The makeup trailer was just completely covered in pictures from the period of every color and age and person you would find in sexy magazines, as well as buttoned-up Italian wives.
One of the standout scenes of the season happens when Shelly tries to improve her sex life with her husband with various fantasies but everything goes wrong. What went into the shooting?
There was some serious mental preparation because I knew when I was going to shoot that essentially three quarters of the day would be making out back to back with guys I’ve never met before. It’s just like, “Okay. That’s my job.” Also, I say goodbye to my kids in the morning, take them to school, and then make out with a bunch of different men? It’s a pretty weird world. Like two separate lives. Find the rich inner life that Shelly has I very interesting. There are the tropes that get them there but then the reality of things kicks in. I bonded a lot with trying to escape and being pulled back by a faulty button or having to scold your kids. That saturates and permeates every part of your life when you are a mother, so trying to get a piece of life for yourself that is just for yourself untouched by it is almost impossible.
Shooting it was madness. We spent a lot of time on the first sequence where the Heathcliff guy comes over. He wore this wig that reminded me of Winger, and I had a Kip Winger poster over my bed in middle and high school. He was super funny. It was overkill. I honestly thought, “This is supposed to be funny, right?” It’s written funny, but it’s also her imagination, so I didn’t want to make it too funny. But he said, “No, do it! Let’s set accents! Let’s ridicule!”
And then I made out with the priests. These guys were like full-fledged stunt guys. So they had been working really hard on their stunt fights, and making out with them was like having a little stunt happen on my face. And there was a horse and we were on hay bales and Rich Sommer is such a great sport. I’ve never shot like that before. I’m much more comfortable with a comedy smooch. I’ve never spent a lot of time filming sensual, sexual scenes that are supposed to be believable. It was all a bunch of insane comedy tongues.
So what was it like shooting a more serious sex scene as Bambi takes boudoir photos of Shelly and they kissing?
We had a zoom call about it with the intimacy coordinator and the director and we talked about what we were going to see, how it would feel. Natalia wanted it to feel very passionate and not super soft, although I think it still managed to achieve a certain level of softness. But the first jump for me, the instigator of this smooch, was that I had to be quite overwhelmed with emotion. So here I did some of my own personal research by watching some films that I thought would be inspirational. I rewatched Afternoon Delight; I’ve seen Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
For Shelly, that wasn’t a possibility that had ever crossed her mind, at least not to ever seriously consider it. And back then, such a step might have cost her everything she already valued. So I think it surprises her as much as anyone else. I think it just feels really good, and I think she just follows the good feelings. She feels really comfortable around Bambi, this woman who just feels totally comfortable in her body. It feels like they are almost dating, even as a friendship dating. They just like being together and have that zing that you feel when you first meet someone you have great chemistry with.
Ultimately, however, she leaves Bambi’s house to go back to her husband. What do you think of how Shelly and Bambi left things?
I don’t think she’s done with Bambi. There was a pointy close-up on the bracelet Bambi had given her. I feel like Shelly had a moment, quote unquoted, coming to her senses. For example: “What am I doing? I have to make dinner for my family! I missed my son’s game! I live in this sensual pigsty! That’s not real.”
But something clearly moved inside her and opened up inside her. She’s wearing pants for the first time. She shares these photos [with her husband]what I think [shows] a broken version of her. The lens was essentially Bambi. She tries to push the passion back to where she thinks it should live and that never works. It’s heartbreaking, but fingers crossed if we get a Season 2, we might find out more.
This interview has been edited and abridged.
https://variety.com/2022/tv/news/minx-lennon-parham-penises-lesbian-sex-1235231998/ ‘Minx’ Star Lennon Parham on the Season 1 Ending, Penises, Lesbian Twist