Kata Mara on Why Honesty Is Key to Sex Scenes

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We’ve shared clips about Kate Mara’s experience during her very first pilot season and how she booked her cameo role in Iron Man 2, but that’s only scratching the surface of her accomplishments over the years. From the early audition that proved to her mother that she had what it takes to become an actor to scoring a role in Brokeback Mountain, working with Ridley Scott on The Martian and then some, we’re covering as much of it as possible on Collider Ladies Night in honor of Mara’s latest release, A Teacher.

Mara leads the FX series as Claire Wilson, a teacher starting a new job at a high school in Texas. While her home life with her husband Matt (Ashley Zukerman) isn’t perfect and Claire struggles with strained relationship with her family, this new gig is off to a promising start and offers hope. However, when Claire begins tutoring one of the students (Nick Robinson) on the side, lines are crossed with Claire leaving irreparable damage in her wake.

Not only does the show mark some of Mara’s best work yet, but it’s also her first time serving as an executive producer on a series. Whether it’s gaining experience as a producer or using her knowhow and voice to advocate for stellar talent, like suggesting Gabriela Cowperthwaite to direct Megan Leavey, Mara is clearly making moves to not just wow crowds in front of the lens, but also to create successful working environments behind them, making her an ideal guest for Collider Ladies Night.

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Image via Dave Brown/FX

In addition to discussing working with Sydney Pollack at such a young age and her biggest takeaway from nearly booking a role on Lost, Mara also took a moment to get blunt about a certain something that might be more nerve-racking than some are willing to admit – the pressure of filming a sex scene. In fact, while out promoting Queen & Slim back in November of 2019, Daniel Kaluuya admitted that the thing he was most afraid to ask about when he was first starting out was how you film an intimate scene. Here’s the advice Mara offered up for anyone about to shoot such a scene for the first time:

“My advice to anyone who hasn’t had to do a sex scene before and then has to is, I think being honest about that is always super helpful. I’ve had to do scenes with people before who had never had to do an intimate scene and when they told me that, I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ It made me feel more connected and like they were my partner and we were gonna figure this out so that it was as less awkward as possible, and I think the way to make it as less awkward as possible is to know exactly what you’re doing, as in to talk about it with your director and to know exactly what the goal is of the scene. A lot of times the best sex scenes are choreographed and you have no idea that they are. They seem like they were somehow improvised, and meanwhile they’re not.”

As for A Teacher in particular, feeling safe while shooting those scenes was of the utmost importance and Mara credits director of photography Quyen Tran for helping create such an environment on set:

“With our show, it was all throughly discussed very specifically, just as you would discuss any other scene that was important emotionally or important to the plot in any way. There were never any surprises, and so that always made me feel very safe and very comfortable. I also felt very comfortable in this because of our DP. She also was our camera operator in a lot of scenes, I think in all of our sex scenes she was our camera operator. She was basically there over my shoulder or Nick’s shoulder whispering, ‘Um, can you put your arm down a little bit?’ Or things like that. You literally had somebody watching your back.”

You can check out Mara’s full Collider Ladies Night interview at the top of this article to hear more about her experience working on A Teacher, when her focus shifted from stage to screen work, how becoming a mother influenced her career goals, the importance of learning more about potential collaborators and loads more! The first four episodes of A Teacher are now available to watch on FX on Hulu with a new episode dropping every Tuesday until the series concludes with Episode 10 on December 29th.

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Image via Chris Large/FX

Kate Mara:

  • 00:57 – Mara on being shy when she was younger; why it makes sense for a shy kid to turn to acting.
  • 02:28 – The first time her mother realized she really had what it takes to be an actor.
  • 04:00 – Mara discusses her decision to defer from Tisch School of the Arts.
  • 06:26 – Initially, Mara’s dream was to act on stage; when the focus shifted to on-screen work.
  • 07:04 – Mara revisited making Random Hearts with Sydney Pollack at such a young age.
  • 09:05 – On always having confidence in herself when she was first starting out; the importance of having her parents’ support.
  • 11:32 – Mara almost booked Lost; not booking Lost meant she could do Brokeback Mountain.
  • 13:33 – How becoming a mother shifted her career goals.
  • 15:10 – Mara looks back on the Iron Man 2 casting process and her expectations for the role.
  • 17:28 – Mara revisits filming the opening sequence of The Martian; filming on the Hermes set.
  • 21:34 – Mara first connected with her Megan Leavey director via Twitter; Mara was the one to suggest that Gabriela Cowperthwaite direct the film.
  • 24:45 – On producing more projects and having more control over picking collaborators.
  • 26:40 – Mara highlights a filmmaker that she thinks is changing the industry for the better.
  • 27:50 – What Mara learned from her experience making Fantastic Four.
  • 30:38 – The importance of asking other actors about their experience working with someone you’re about to work with; two actors Mara would praise if she was asked about her experience working with them.
  • 33:12 – Has Mara ever been invited back to American Horror Story?
  • 33:55 – Why there was no hesitation when committing to A Teacher.
  • 35:06 – Having only produced one feature film, was there anything about producing a series that surprised Mara?
  • 37:11 – The excitement of playing a character who’s relatable in ways, but makes a terrible choice.
  • 39:07 – What advice would Mara give to an actor filming their first sex scene; the key to feeling comfortable doing those scenes on A Teacher.
  • 41:50 – Random questions begin! Find out what the last movie Mara watched is, who she was most starstruck to meet, the beverage she could live on, if she has any pets, and her biggest fear overcome.

This article is sponsored content presented by Movies AnywhereMovies Anywhere and Screen Pass are trademarks of Movies Anywhere, LLC.

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Jeff also reviews Sarah Paulson’s new thriller ‘Run,’ Josh Duhamel’s comedy ‘Buddy Games’ and a pair of fight movies.


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