Warning: This article contains spoilers from the Fellow Travelers premiere, "You're Wonderful."
At a New York City screening of the Fellow Travelers premiere, located in the vintage-styled cellar of the Roxy Cinema of Manhattan's Tribeca district, Ron Nyswaner, the Oscar-winning scribe behind the drama, made clear to those in attendance: "This show is really gay." Now that the first episode of this historical miniseries is out on Paramount+ ahead of Sunday's debut on Showtime, a general audience can see for themselves just how gay we're talking.
There are multiple explicit sex scenes in the first hour alone, including one particular sequence that sees Tim Laughlin (Bridgerton's Jonathan Bailey) sucking on the toes of Hawkins Fuller (Magic Mike's Matt Bomer) in the 1952 Washington, D.C., setting. It's his way of seducing his closeted lover in order to gain access to an exclusive party on the Hill. "I'm your boy, right?" Bailey's Tim says. "And your boy wants to go to the party." Then the old adage of putting one's foot in one's mouth becomes all too literal.
It's... wooh! ... It's sizzling. But Daniel Minahan, who the directs the first couple episodes and executive produces the show as a whole, wants to emphasize there's more going on here than just the sight of Bailey sopping up Bomer's piggly wigglies.
Showtime Matt Bomer's Hawkins Fuller and Jonathan Bailey's Tim Laughlin amid the throes of sex in 'Fellow Travelers'
"The thing that was important to me was that the sex scenes were always telling a story, and they weren't just gratuitous," the Assassination of Gianni Versace Emmy winner tells EW. "They were about control. They were about power." It's something he set up right from the beginning. "In the first scene where they make love, Hawk has the power," the filmmaker explains, adding how that initial masturbation scene is Tim "having this almost transcendent experience with Hawk, which imprints on him."
"The scene where Tim withholds the information until [Hawk] agrees to take him to the party, within that, Hawk tries to dominate him," Minahan continues. "Sticking his foot in his mouth really was a dominance over him, but in that case, who's the dominant one and who's the submissive one? It seems like Tim ended up getting what he wanted in the end."
There's a lot more to Fellow Travelers than just sex, though it certainly doesn't hurt. The eight-episode drama oscillates between the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, where Hawk visits an ailing Tim in San Fransisco; and the previous decades during which these on-again-off-again lovers have crossed paths. There's a tense vibe to the 1950s timeline as McCarthy begins the Lavender Scare, a purging of homosexuals from government work. But ultimately, the creators of the show realize that, for better or worse, people are going to be taking particular notice every time a bare bum or the like flashes across the screen.
"Oscar Wilde said, 'Everything in life is about sex except for sex. Sex is about power.' That was one rule," Nyswaner separately tells EW. "The other rule is that we try not to do the same sexual act more than once. When we were writing episode 8, my co-writers and I said, 'What haven't we done?'"
Showtime Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey in 'Fellow Travelers'
Robbie Rogers, the former-soccer-star-turned television producer, makes note of the authenticity of depicting same-sex sex. "When you're with Tim and Hawk in Tim's apartment, you really feel the intimacy and what it's like between two men before and after having sex," he says. "Some people might feel awkward, but I feel like in our story it feels quite authentic and real."
Rogers confirms a lot of planning went into pulling off these scenes between the producers, the episodic directors, the intimacy coordinators, and the actors themselves. There were "a lot of conversations about what [the actors] were willing and wanted to do," he adds. "A lot of that was actors [having] ideas about their characters. We were really open to those discussions."
While there will surely be many viewers thirsting after Bailey and Bomer's chiseled forms, Rogers hopes people will realize there's more to depicting such intense sex than just for the sake of it. "I hope this feels very real and part of the character storyline and they understand like the dynamics of power that are shifting," he says.
But also... you know, there's foot stuff.
Fellow Travelers airs Fridays on Paramount+ and Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.
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