Maggie Gyllenhaal on How Producing HBO's 'The Deuce' Let Her Be "Part of the Conversation"

Courtesy of HBO
'The Deuce'

The actress and 'House of Cards' and 'The Path' showrunners spoke on a THR-sponsored panel about scripted series as part of Produced By NY.

Maggie Gyllenhaal has been acting for 25 years, and she just recently took on the role of producer for the HBO series The Deuce, in which she also stars.

While speaking on a Hollywood Reporter-sponsored panel about pitching and producing scripted TV series at the Producers Guild of America’s Produced By Conference NY, Gyllenhaal opened up about balancing the roles of actress and producer.

“I had been interested in producing before, but really more from a development point of view to try to create projects that I could act in,” she said. “The motivation to be a producer on [The Deuce] was to be guaranteed a spot at the table and a part of the conversation, which is what any actor wants in any successful collaborative interaction.”

The Deuce is the second television project Gyllenhaal has starred in, but the first in which she gets a say in what goes on creatively. “The difference here for me was that the scripts weren’t written. I didn’t even know who the directors were going to be. I have to have some sort of guarantee that I’ll be part of the storytelling,” she said on what motivated her to take on a producing role with the HBO show. As a producer, Gyllenhaal meets with creators George Pelecanos and David Simon to discuss her notes prior to filming. When it comes time to film, she has to “take the producer’s hat off.”

“Part of the reason I also wanted a producing credit and to be part of the conversation is because our show is about sex workers and about sexual politics and about misogyny. I wanted to be part of that conversation,” Gyllenhaal said. “When I was actually acting, I didn’t find that there was much of a place for that. I had to do that thinking before.”

One of Gyllenhaal’s proudest moments as a producer was her fight to include a scene about a female orgasm caused by masturbation to emphasize the difference between transactional sex and desired sex. After pitching the idea before filming began, the scene was finally included in episode five. “After we shot it, David was like, ‘We did it! We did what you said. We shot the difference between these two kinds of orgasms,” she recalled. Gyllenhaal then revealed that the scene was initially cut during the editing process. Producer Nina Kostroff Noble then interrupted, “We were short on time.” After the audience erupted in laughter, Gyllenhaal said, “I basically wrote a dissertation on why we had to keep the orgasm, and they put it back.”

In addition to Gyllenhaal and Kostroff Noble, the panel consisted of House of Cards co-showrunners Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson and The Path showrunner Jessica Goldberg. Dana Kuznetzkoff acted as the moderator.

During the Q&A portion of the panel, Gyllenhaal asked her fellow panelists “how something that is uniquely feminine gets sold” during the pitching process at a time when diversity and inclusion are at the front of many people’s minds. The topic prompted Kuznetzkoff to elaborate and ask how script writing for female-led stories is impacted by today’s political climate.

“You live in the world, so on a daily basis you’re in dialogue and what’s going on in the world, so it comes into the stories that you’re writing and it comes into the world and it comes into the room and hopefully you’re open and willing to go with it,” said Pugliese. “I do think there is something about … the buyers can say that they’re diverse and want feminine stories, but there’s still these authoritative, sort of bastard narratives that’s the currency, so they’re not really that open to it.”