L to R: Shelley Conn as Jessica, Sharon Small as Trudi,
Sarah Parish Dr. Katie Roden, and Orla Brady as Siobhan
At its core, Mistresses is about how "friendships have become the new family," said Clarkson. To help the cast portray an authentic friendship on-screen, Clarkson attempted to create a sense of familiarity between them off-screen.
Brady: [Clarkson] got us
in a room for what she called "rehearsal" before we
started … I’d seen the other actors. We all
had seen each other. We didn’t know each other. And
we thought we’d be doing traditional rehearsal, and
she actually made us — got us into a room and made us
tell secrets about each other and things that I hope
have never left the room.
Clarkson: Never left the room.
Brady: And because of that, we just all kind of
saw each other’s vulnerabilities immediately.
Shelley Conn: And we had a history together, and
… it sort of meant that, yeah, there was a sort
of anchor between all of us, and it was a really
lovely basis to be able to work from because there
wasn’t a lot of time to get that history.
Clarkson: …You know, in all
television schedules, it’s really tight to kind of —
you’re very lucky to get any rehearsal period at all,
and I feel that you need to break down barriers very
quickly. And I always find — and they weren’t really
asking — they started with very simple questions like
what was your favorite job? Which one of your parents
are you most like? And actually, if you actually
looked at the questions I asked them, they were
actually really basic and they couldn’t have said much
at all, but these guys —
Conn: It was like therapy.
Clarkson: It was a bit like therapy, but I hoped what
it would do is break down those barriers. You know, they
had to talk about intimate things. They had to play
intimate scenes, and they had to feel like a group of
friends that have known each other for a long time. And
even though they knew each other, they didn’t know each
other that well.
You’ve only got a week to sort — to
break through those barriers. I thought it might be a
good way — and it all depends on the actors as well.
They were very receptive to it, which was great, which
made it very easy for me to help with that.
Clarkson was very happy with the results.
"The four of
them are fantastic," she said. "Even if there were scenes that
didn’t quite feel comfortable for them, they always
worked to find a way of bringing them to life
The cast did admit to being a little nervous initially about the show’s sex scenes.
asked S.J. in the rehearsal week, you know, what would be
showing and she said, “All you’ll see is some side arse,”
is what she said.
Conn: That’s the technical term so you know.
Brady: Side arse being that [motions].
Clarkson:And that’s all they quote me on.
Brady: And, of course, our response to that was to
frantically ask the producers whether there was a gym in
the hotel. So we spent weeks pestering them saying,
“There will be a gym, you’re sure? And it’s open early
enough for us to go to?” And they assured us it would
be. And I think Shelley looked into it one day, and I
think Sharon went for a sauna another day. And we just
went to the bar and had crisps because we kind of have
crisps and wine every night.
Well, that’s the broad
difference between an American actress and an English
actress. We just couldn’t do that. But we knew we would
get away with it because we would only ever see side
Conn: The sexuality in the show is suggested
more than, you know, in there.
Alex (Anna Torv) and Jessica (Shelley Conn) in Mistresses
Clarkson: You do see some of it, but I think we
hopefully didn’t show anything that was gratuitous. It
was always earned … It was
hopefully only to help move the story on or to satisfy a
story point or a peak or a turning point. And it was
never just “Let’s just have a scene with sex in it.” If
we had some of those in the early draft, they got cut.
And there were a couple. You added things in and they
just went pretty early on.
When asked how much the sex scenes were edited for American broadcast, BBC America’s Jo Petherbridge said, "very little."