- Season two of “The Girlfriend Experience” will be told through two different storylines. Directors Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz wrote and directed the stories separately. The two made the season despite having the same budget they had in season one.
Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz teamed to direct the entire first season of Starz’s hit show, “The Girlfriend Experience,” and though both are helming season two (premiering November 5), they are doing things very differently this time around.
Based on Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 movie “The Girlfriend Experience” (he is an executive producer on the show), the anthology series looks at high-end escorts who engage their clients on an emotional level, not just a sexual one. The focus of season one was Christine Reade (Riley Keough), who juggles school and an internship at a law firm with being an escort in the evenings.
In the midst of discussing season two with Starz, Kerrigan and Seimetz threw out an idea: They wanted to direct separate storylines within the same season.
So instead of following one story, season two will have two. Each Sunday night, the first half-hour episode will be from one director’s standalone story, and the other half-hour episode will show the other’s.
“We were just interested in certain themes and thought it would be interesting to push the format of television,” Kerrigan told Business Insider while showing a sneak peek of the season at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, along with Seimetz. “Steven encourages us to just break the rules.”
“Just to keep the series fresh it just seemed like, why would we repeat what we did last season and tell the same thing?” Seimetz added.
Starz was all for it. Unlike the first season, when Kerrigan and Seimetz wrote the season together in Soderbergh’s office, this time the two split up. They wrote their stories separately and then shot them with their own with separate cast and crew.
For Kerrigan’s story, we follow Anna Greenwald (Louisa Krause), who after blackmailing one of her politically prominent clients, gets involved with one of his rivals, Erica Myles (Anna Friel).
Seimetz’s story looks at Bria Jones (Carmen Ejogo), a former escort who enters witness protection to escape her ex, who has a criminal past.
Seimetz said she was inspired to tell a story that went beyond the corporate world that season one was in. She wanted to “see how far I could take what the idea of the ‘girlfriend experience‘ could mean.” That led her to shooting in drab locations and having Bria look as unglamorous as possible. The boring existence causes the character to be tempted to go back into the escort world.
Kerrigan wanted to delve deeper into the themes of money and power that were explored in season one, using the backdrop of politics. Anna and Erica build a relationship through teaming up to take down a dirty politician, but things then get more complicated when Erica’s former flame, Sandra (Emily Piggford), enters the mix.
“I was really interested in the power dynamics between three women in a sexual relationship and how that power dynamic changes,” he said.
Like Keough in season one, both leads for season two are unknown to most audiences. Kerrigan found Krause through an audition tape she sent in. Seimetz, who is also an actress (she plays Becky Ives on “Stranger Things”), was introduced to Ejogo through a casting director before the two starred in Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant.”
“I knew I was going to cast her in the show, so then being able to act with her in the movie before doing the show was great,” she said.
Seimetz said Ejogo was informed she was going to be cast on the show before they made “Covenant,” which led to the two having a lot of talks about the show while taking breaks on the big blockbuster.
“Because I cast her so early I was writing for her,” Seimetz said. “So I would send her things as it developed.”
The directors’ season two storylines are vastly different visually, and in tone, from one another. Kerrigan’s is full of wide shots, which he said he hoped would “emphasize the performative nature of politics and personal relationships.” Seimetz’s has a claustrophobic feel with all its tight close-ups. “I wanted it to look and feel more frantic than last season,” she said.
Despite basically making two TV shows at the same time, the two filmmakers say they were working with the same budget from season one. That didn’t seem to phase the two veterans of indie film projects. In fact, Kerrigan thought, “It was great!”
“Because we had complete creative freedom,” he said. “Steven gets final cut and in essence he gives it to Amy and myself. If we stay in those certain budget parameters, we can pretty much do what we want.”
The two said the biggest challenge from season one to season two was their interaction in the writing process. It was a lot harder to get to the finish line by themselves.
“It got lonely,” Kerrigan said of writing season two.
“Which is funny because we would fight,” Seimetz said with a laugh. “When you’re writing alone you just have yourself and you’re like, ‘This sucks.’ When you have someone else you have to do it. This time I needed it to feel like a job, so I hired an assistant and that really got me going.”
Watch the season 2 trailer below: