Ruth Wilson on 'The Affair' Role: "I Wanted to Challenge the Stigma of Affairs"

"I think those controversial characters are the most interesting. You find humanity within that. That's your job as an actor — to be empathetic to who this character is and why they do these things."

"I remember reading the script and really, I hadn't read anything like it in terms of the conceit of the piece, and that fascinated me," Ruth Wilson shared during The Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actress Roundtable. "It meant as an actor you could play two sides of the same character." The Affair is written to show the same story repeated from each main characters' view point.

Wilson isn't afraid of the controversial subject matter of the Showtime drama. In fact, she welcomes it. "This is about an affair, and from my point of view, I really wanted to challenge the stigma of affairs. They happen so often, so surely something must be ... they can't be all wrong."

Both she and showrunner/head-writer Sarah Treem knew Wilson's "character could get a lot more antagonism from press and people watching it because [she's] a woman."

Wilson argues that, "Woman are often are often seen as the victims and the scarlet lady. Of course in his version, that's how I'm sort of perceived, and then in my version, it's a woman who's lost a child." 

"I think those controversial characters are the most interesting," Wilson says of her unfaithful character, who is struggling to cope with a wholly traumatic event. "You find humanity within that. That's your job as an actor — to be empathetic to who this character is, and why they do these things."

The actress says she was afraid of the emotional spiral her character was sent to go down. She called her mom, who flew out to be with her during the filming, just for the added support. "Once you're in the work," she describes, "the anxiety goes away. You're actually just in there, digging deeper and finding the journey through."

"I had only done one sex scene before," Wilson says of her previous experience before the obviously sexualized content of The Affair. "Dominic [West] and I were always quite insistent that the scenes had a narrative."

She speaks to her Roundtable counterparts, noting, "We've all been playing in these shows, really interesting women. Conflicted women. Complex women. Who you are is sexual as anything else, so it's really interesting to bring that into those scenes, and that's starting to happen, which is really exciting."

Wilson joined fellow actresses Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman), Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freak Show), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex) and Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder) for the Roundtable, where they discussed the dynamic and powerful dramatic roles currently being offered for women on television.

The full Drama Actress Roundtable aired on Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday, Aug. 2, at 11 a.m. EST on Sundance TV. Tune in this Sunday for the next episode.

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