I remember when we got to the sixth episode and there’s the scene where Margaret is interviewed by them and they come to realize, “Oh God, this woman has never had an orgasm and she has this terrible, terrible sex life.” Those are real big stakes there, and you don’t have to worry about exploding anything or shooting anybody in the head.
 
Michelle Ashford:   Yeah, I hope so. That is really my dream that people will say, “Oh my God. The idea of a life lived in such agony is so significant that you don’t need to resort to anything else.” That that will feel very real. That people will look at it and say, “Oh my God, I knew someone like that.” Or, “I’ve been in that situation.” And I know it feels really important. 
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Showtime and CBS are in the same corporate family, but will you have continued access to Beau Bridges and Allison Janney going forward or are they dropping out of the story now that we’ve gone away from Wash U?
 
Michelle Ashford:   Here’s the thing that I’ve realized: That everybody that we’ve introduced that may be going away to me feels like it’s a temporary going away, because I realize one of the really fun things that we can do is keep bringing people back in the most surprising way. Next season we’re bringing back Betty the hooker because we loved her, and then (Annaleigh Ashford) went to do “Kinky Boots.” And then we found a way to bring her back. Now she’s with us for the entire season next year. And other people had to leave for other reasons and yes, we had Beau and Allison who are now on their (shows). So I think it’s okay to put a pin in that for a bit, but it’s definitely a story that you’re gonna want to follow in some form. We would never not come back to it at all. We just have to figure out how. We can’t have them the way we had them last year because they’re not around as much. 
 
Have you figured out, without giving too much away about season 2, what it means for him to leave the hospital when most of the people in your cast were people who he was working with there? Is Jane coming along? Is Langham coming along? How is this going to work?
 
Michelle Ashford:   Yes, we did burn the house down at the end of the season – which I actually find pretty exciting. One of the things that would be really strange about our show is that because we have to move through a lot of time and because their careers change so radically over the course of their time together, our show will look pretty different every year. It’s really gonna change. And so next year it’s totally different. And we’re beholden to the real story, which is both a curse and a blessing. But I think for the most part it’s a blessing because it just forces us to really go, “Well, now we’ve got a new bunch of people. We’ve got to go in another direction and we’ve got to bring different people in and their relationship is always the center of it.” But they really did move through the world that way and so, yes, one of the things we had to figure out was like, “Wow, what about all the people at this hospital?” So like, for example, Jane who is Helene York who we adore and love and she is on “Bullets Over Broadway” this coming season and is literally unavailable. So then we go, “Huh, okay, Jane gone. But Betty back.” And so we have to look at it like that. But Jane won’t just vanish. We’ll find a way to bring her back, but she will not be in the show like she was last year. However, I can completely see Jane then coming back maybe the next season. I think the people that you see in our show will come back in and out of this show in weird ways for the duration.
 
Some people have been noting over the last few episodes Ethan has become so good and noble and in many ways a better alternative for Virginia, at least emotionally, than Bill is. And they’re wondering, “Well, what about the guy who punched her in the mouth at the start of the season?” So how do you look at the transformation he’s been through?
 
Michelle Ashford:   This is what the idea was and it’s up to anybody else to say whether or not it works. We wanted to show the idea of a boy becoming a man. We wanted to show somebody growing up, and here’s a guy who’s had everything handed to him – and it’s all gone. There’s been a predetermined path for him from the beginning. And we all know people like that. It was just like “Okay, I’m gonna do this, then I’m gonna do this, and then I’m gonna get married and then I’m gonna be a doctor and…” all this stuff. And what happens is he meets Virginia, who’s very unconventional. And it’s not so much that Virginia is just magic or as someone said, “Oh, the girl with the magic vagina.” That is not it at all. What it is is that as you wander through your life, sometimes you meet someone who triggers something in you that makes you go, “Oh, wait a minute. I can do this a different way or I can be a different way or I’m a different man than I thought I was.” The idea with Dr. Haas was that here is an impulsive boy who meets a woman who is much more sophisticated and world-wise than he is. It completely throws him and freaks him out and that’s both a reflection of who he was but also the time, which is if you were a man and you slept with a woman, the only response you would assume from that woman is that she would want to marry you because that would be the expected thing. And so when she not only doesn’t want to marry him, she’s not even in love with him – it is such an affront to everything he knows and his ability to function as a man that he loses his temper and he hauls off and he punches her. At the beginning, people were saying, “Well, that guy’s dead. That guy’s just such an abuser.” I was like, “I don’t see that at all.” I see a guy who’s freaked out and then has to deal with the fact that he’s now been stirred up. He’s got all these dark emotions, he doesn’t know what to do, he behaves abominably with that candy striper, and what he’s trying to do is figure out who he is. And he realizes that there’s a part of him that could be a good man and that maybe his being a good man is who he should be. And so it’s really about somebody growing up. And yes, he does get to be pretty stately by the end. That is a part of what we need to show Virginia’s dilemma, which is what really motivates Virginia. What is it that propels that woman through life? We talk about this continuously because she’s a very, very curious creature, and what we want to see is why does she choose what she chooses. What’s really underneath there? And so what we wanted to really show is give her a fantastic alternative. We wanted the audience to see if a woman is presented with everything that makes sense that would be good for her, that would be good for her children, why would she go away from that? What’s that about? And that’s what really that story’s about.
 
When Masters does his presentation, the first half of it it’s a party, everyone’s having a good time. No one is scandalized by any of it but when they start acing the footage and then Bill starts talking aboutthe women’s sexual power, everyone gets upset and Bill gets fired. Is that how that actually went down and what were you trying to illustrate there?
 
Michelle Ashford:   Lucky for me, it is how it went down. He did present this to his colleagues in one of those afternoon meetings. He did serve martinis. He thought that it would be festive, and that everybody would get into it. He was completely tone deaf to how scandalous that research actually is. And what he didn’t understand is that, other gynecologists and obstetricians didn’t know anything about this. So not only were they repulsed by the whole thing but they also felt threatened by it because they thought, “Wait a minute. This is supposed to be my field but I don’t know anything about any of this.” And also I do think there was a great deal of resentment toward Masters because he was such a big dog at that hospital. And the thing that just sent everybody over the edge was the film. Because it truly looks like a stag film and the idea of taking that and putting it into a medical setting – they just flipped out. Now the license that I did take with that was that it happened slower. It took a few months for everybody to get petitions together and to start complaining to the chancellor of the university and finally Masters just had to leave. He just couldn’t function there.
 
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

 

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