The Deuce, HBO’s slick new show about the legalization of the pornography industry in 1970s New York, has a lot of big-ticket items going for it: a cozy premium-cable home; the guidance of showrunner David Simon, who also created the acclaimed series The Wire; James Franco playing twin brothers in seedy pre-Giuliani Times Square. But all of that pales in comparison to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s star turn as Candy Merrell, a Times Square sex worker who gets drawn into the emergent porn industry—as a behind-the-scenes player. For our November issue, Gyllenhaal celebrated Candy’s entrepreneurial spirit by embodying a different sort of working woman in the season’s best suits. In between takes, we asked her some questions about her meaty new role.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: What drew you to the project, initially?
MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL:I think it had something to do with Michelle MacLaren, who directed the pilot and also the last episode. It was she who kind of said to David and George, “You should meet Maggie.” So she made the introduction. Then we all had a great meeting in New York, where I had read the first three episodes, which were all that was written when we began shooting.
HB: What was it about those first three episodes and the character? There’s quite an arc to the first eight episodes, and after episode five, it really changes her identity.
MG: One thing I was really drawn to in the very first episode is—often, when you see a portrayal of a prostitute, you only get the element of her life at work. You don’t get to see the rest of her. Right away in the first episode, there’s a very explicit scene where I say to that kid, “This is my job.” I loved that idea. You do get to see her as a daughter, and a mother, and a businesswoman, I think, even in the beginning. And an artist. You see her in relation to all of those things. Prostitution is just one aspect of that. And a lover of someone who she’s actually chosen, and sex is not transactional. You see all of it.
I was compelled by that. I was compelled also just by the quality of the writing. I think it’s rare to find writing that good. That’s what we had to talk about when we met: What is the story you’re telling, and how can this be fit into it, and how does she shift and change? How is she empowered and disempowered? How do those affect each other? We talked about all of that. I think it was important to me—because it is such a delicate subject matter in 2017—to be a part of the storytelling, and to have a guarantee that I would be a part of the storytelling.
Read more (with great pictures) at Harper’s Bazaar.