Riley Keough talks to ADTV about her complex Girlfriend character and the role of sex in the production.
Earlier this year, Starz unveiled its newest show, The Girlfriend Experience. Each week you could watch as its lead Christine (Riley Keough) joins a prestigious a firm as an intern while studying law. Her classmate introduces her to the world of TGE, where transactional relationships are made, and Christine is drawn into the world. Or you could binge all 13 episodes.
Riley Keough has starred in such films as Magic Mike, The Runaways and more recently Mad Max: Fury Road. I recently had the chance to catch up with the actress and soon-to-be filmmaker – she’s working on a movie – to talk about working with Steven Soderbergh again and what drew Riley Keough to play one of TV’s most complicated characters.
You’ve worked with Steven before on Magic Mike. How did The Girlfriend Experience happen?
Steven had gotten Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz together, and they were all working on it. They wrote the show, and he brought them on to write, create and direct. It was based on the same subject matter as the film, but he wanted a completely different storyline. So, they took it in, did their own thing, and I was his suggestion. I met with Amy and Lodge, and here I am.
Christine is quite a complex character. What drew you to her?
The cool thing is they let me read four episodes before I signed on, and before we shot the shot I got to read all 13 episodes. He’s always doing interesting things, and I love both of the filmmakers. I loved the idea of the show and Christine. I thought she was interesting and different to what I normally read. You just know when you want to play somebody.
She’s very different to the characters you’ve played in the past. She’s all about empowerment which is something I love about her. Is that right?
She’s very unapologetic about who she is. I think as a woman, it’s such a strong trait.
How do you research someone like Christine?
I didn’t really research anything to come up with her because that was more Amy, Lodge and I figuring out who this person was that was able to do this wild and different job. I met with girls to get the details on how they deal with it and how they feel about it. I didn’t really know that much about the subject. I was interested in their emotions.
Did anything surprise you when you were speaking to the girls?
I wasn’t aware there was a way to a job in which it was enjoyed by the providers. I had thought it was an oppressive situation. I didn’t know that existed. I was educated on the subject. I was really fascinated by it because it was intense and you take on a lot where you have to be the girlfriend of these people. I was completely intrigued by it.
What was it like working with Amy, Steven and Lodge on the whole show?
Steven produced it. Amy and Lodge wrote and directed it. It was great that we were all united on the same page. We had the same ideas and there wasn’t a difference in vision really between the two film makers.
Did you have any concerns about the nudity, sex, and masturbating ?
No, I like what it does to people. I like that it makes them think about things and question things. I like that it makes them think about what’s right and wrong. To me, that was a deeper profound reason to me for doing the project. That is just a part of it. I was fine with it and didn’t have the much attention on it.
How did it change how you view relationships and sex?
It made me think a lot about it and the importance put on it. It made me think about intense things and question a lot of things. I didn’t always come up with answers. When you’re doing something so much, you lose something sacred about it.
Who is she?
I think that’s the point of the show for me. I want the audience to decide. I like that we didn’t give them too much. I love letting them feel whatever they feel and not tell them things. I tend to choose projects that do that. That’s something that’s left open to interpretation.
Did you get involved in the creativity?
By the time I was attached, it was close to what I’d say was perfect. In developing Christine, this person, and the whole world, it was a collaborative thing between all of us. We get lucky and had the same taste and agreed on how scenes should go, and there was never a time when we felt differently about things. That’s why I think it turned out great.
Did you read any of the reaction to the show online?
It’s funny with this show. We’re going to do this and it’s going to get a crazy reaction, and that’s the point of it. We’re going to get angry people, excited people, bored people, intrigued people and that was the point. I didn’t go out and read them. I try not to read them because I knew it would have those different reactions, but I did get sent some reviews.
You’re working on a film. How’s that going?
It’s great. It should be done any day now. I can’t say anything yet because I’m still very protective of it.