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As a producer on HBO’s The Deuce, star Maggie Gyllenhaal has said that she felt it was her job to personally speak with both James Franco and the women who work on the porn industry drama’s set after sexual misconduct allegations were leveled against Franco earlier this year.
After shedding some light on how the series handled the claims while heading into its second season (which is currently airing), Gyllenhaal is now elaborating further on how the Franco situation was dealt with behind the scenes.
“We took the allegations really seriously — learned everything we could about them,” the actress and producer told Vulture in a Q&A discussing the #MeToo movement and its impact on her career choices. “All of us felt that it was important to talk to the people who were on our crew and in our cast and make sure they felt that they’d been treated with total respect and felt safe — everybody did.”
Gyllenhaal, who plays call girl turned adult film director Eileen “Candy” Merrell on the series, stressed that instead of taking “simple black-and-white” action, the on-set investigation with Franco called for a more nuanced approach. A third party was also called in.
“In this moment of change, in this incredible moment for women, it’s important to think as deeply and as carefully and as specifically and in as nuanced a way as you possibly can,” she said of their approach. “There are some situations that are easy: ‘This person is a rapist and therefore needs to go to jail.’ Then there are the situations that are much more complicated. I was part of a group of intelligent, thoughtful people on The Deuce — David Simon and George Pelecanos and also Richard Plepler, who runs HBO — who were using everything we had in order to consider how to move forward.”
In January, Franco was accused of sexual misconduct by more than five women. Franco disputed the accuracy of the claims, but said he supported both the Time’s Up movement and women speaking out during a televised late-night appearance. HBO, in turn, said they had received no complaints or found “any awareness of any incident of concern” involving Franco on the show’s set, and that he would remain in his role as star, executive producer and director. The series was later renewed for both a second and a third season — the third being the last — though Franco has since been largely absent from the show’s marketing.
Gyllenhaal said that, after coming to a satisfying conclusion, the themes addressed in The Deuce were all the more reason why the show should continue on. “I think about our show in particular: It’s about misogyny, it’s about inequality in terms of gender in the entertainment business. It’s about the subtleties of transactional sex,” she said. “And I felt that it would have been a terrible shame to stop telling that story.”
Emphasizing that she was not speaking for Franco, and that it wouldn’t be right for her to be asked to speak on his behalf, Gyllenhaal did say that Franco is “walking right into the eye of the storm” with the dual role he plays (as identical twin brothers) on the show given the feminist themes.
“He’s continuing the conversation with the work that he’s doing,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a way to do this show without consciously knowing that you’re part of a larger conversation about exploitation and misogyny. That’s what I think.”
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