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In the seventh episode of the HBO Max sci-fi comedy, Hazel (Cristin Milioti) is telling her dad’s sex doll, Diane, about an experience she had with her husband, tech mogul Byron (Billy Magnussen). As we see in a flashback, she asked Byron to take her outside their simulation cube (aka the HUB), in which she’d been trapped for years, to a Warpaint concert. But she soon discovers he’s instead chosen to bring Warpaint to them. Through this story, Hazel realizes that she and Diane aren’t so different after all.
Showrunner Christina Lee worked with Alissa Nutting (who is an EP on the series and authored the book on which it is based) to add this scene to the script after the pandemic had begun. “All of a sudden Hazel being in her gilded prison took on new meaning for us as we were in our homes,” says Lee. “We talked about what we felt that we were missing so much being home in quarantine, and it was the energy of being around strangers and having a collective experience together.”
The scene was written with a CGI crowd at the concert, but by the time it was shot, they felt it seemed sadder for it to be an empty concert hall. “It was like he misjudged what she was desiring so much that he would not have even thought a CG audience would be something that she would like,” says Lee. “He just completely misses that point, so we thought it drove it home not to have them.”
“We wanted to name a real band that we liked that we could imagine Hazel listened to when she was living at home or in college,” says Lee. “So we reached out to a couple of bands, and we were really thrilled when Warpaint was available because we were both fans of theirs.” Lee adds that watching the concert scene film in downtown Los Angeles also was very impactful for the crew, who had been mostly under quarantine as well.
“We really wanted to show the before and after,” says Nutting of the scene. “I think that was probably the last time she let herself get excited — there was something that felt very much like a hope that died that day.”
This reveal about Hazel’s sex life was eventually cut from the final version. “While that was one of the things that was problematic in their marriage, we didn’t want to muddy the main focus of what she was talking about,” says Nutting. “There was just such a translation failure of what Hazel’s wants and desires were for Byron. That’s really the crux of why their relationship didn’t work for her — that even if she stated her needs outright, the way that he heard them would not be correct.”
Hazel may be putting makeup on a sex doll while she tells this story, but the writers felt it was a much more genuine moment than it might seem. “We were pitching this mother-daughter moment between Hazel and Diane,” says Nutting. “It’s not just something that’s fun for Hazel or passing the time, this is really like an act of caretaking and in some ways like an apology to Diane and a gift for her father. We really wanted to show how thoughtful she was being.”
This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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