‘Masters of Sex’ Shifts From Private to Public Matters on Season 3

Episode 301
Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME
"This season is about what happens when you expose something hidden to the light," executive producer Ashford says.

Look out, America, here they come. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) spent the first two seasons of Masters of Sex—Showtime’s drama about the pioneering real-life human sexuality researchers—toiling away in obscurity. But they’re gonna have to get used to doing it with the lights on, because when the action picks back up, four years have passed, and their book Human Sexual Response is about to get the whole country hot and bothered. “This season is a huge transition for them,” executive producer Michelle Ashford says. “They become famous, and when the outside world becomes very aware of their work, it affects them and their family.”

Yes, family—as in singular. Bill is still wed to Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald) and maintaining his long-running romance with Virginia, an arrangement that appears surprisingly functional. “They’ve slid into a very odd three-way marriage,” Ashford says. “They all go on vacation and raise their kids together.” There will also be new little ones in the mix. “Other children are on the horizon just around the time that the book is released, which is really going to complicate things,” Sheen says. For her part, Virginia will arrive at a major crossroads. Says Caplan, “It’s one of my favorite parts of the true story—she’s presented yet again with a choice between stability and her passion for her work.”

All the while, the world keeps shifting around them, and the rich cast of supporting players—including Bill’s closeted former boss Barton Scully (Beau Bridges), his now-ex-wife Margaret (Allison Janney) and philandering orthopedic surgeon Dr. Austin Langham (Teddy Sears)—will be doing their part to contribute to the sexual revolution. “Austin is an example of a character that can really go with the times,” Ashford says. “Bill is changing, but you’re not going to see him growing long sideburns. He wore a bow tie until the last day of his life.”


Masters of Sex, Season premiere, Sunday, 10/9c, Showtime