Masters of Sex: Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen Spill on Season 3 (Summer Preview)

Masters Of Sex
Michael Desmond/Showtime
Masters Of Sex

Finding a cure for impotence. Shattering myths about the female orgasm. Blindly torpedoing their own fragile bonds with family, friends, and each other. It’s all in a day’s work for William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), the brilliant but dysfunctional duo at the center of Showtime’s Masters of Sex.

When Season 2 of the drama—based on the true story of the pioneering human-sexuality researchers—signed off, it was January 1961. John F. Kennedy was just taking office, and on-again lovers Bill and Virginia were licking their wounds after the latest round of emotional subterfuge. (Unbeknownst to his partner, Bill sabotaged an upcoming television special about their study and cost Virginia primary custody of her two children in the process. That’s what you get for making whoopee.)

A fresh slew of morning-after complications await Bill and Virginia in Season 3. The action resumes in 1965, on the eve of the release of their groundbreaking book Human Sexual Response. Despite the fact that Bill is still married to Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald), he and Virginia are more entwined than ever—in and out of the sheets—and they’re about to experience the fame that comes along with getting into America’s proverbial pants. Here, Sheen and Caplan offer a peek at what’s next in their Sex lives.

The season premiere fast-forwards four years. How has Bill and Virginia’s relationship evolved?

Caplan: Our show began in 1956, so by now, these two have known each other for the better part of a decade. Virginia is no longer intimidated by Bill, and they’re starting to feel very much like equals.
Sheen: There is a level of comfort and relaxation between them. But it’s about to get shattered again, and it happens early on!
When their book is published, they become faces of the sexual revolution. How will they adjust to celebrity?
Sheen: Being a public figure will bring up all of Bill’s vulnerabilities—and he doesn’t enjoy being vulnerable.
Caplan: He doesn’t take to fame as easily as Virginia. She really likes being famous! If you look at the trajectory of their story, over time, Virginia becomes much harder and Bill becomes much kinder.

A kinder, gentler Bill Masters…what does that even look like?

Sheen: I try not to think of it in terms of him being a better person or nicer. He was abused [by his father] as a child, and now that Bill is getting validation for his work—because it’s always been so important to him to be liked—he’ll start to cope with his past in different ways.

At the end of Season 2, we learned that Libby knows about Bill and Virginia’s affair. Why is she sticking around?

Caplan: All three of them dance around the truth in order to make their lives work. The only thing stranger than their love triangle would be a love square, which we’re going to be entering into!
Sheen: Much later in the season, Virginia will get another love interest, and that challenges Bill. He’s not necessarily going to react in the way we would anticipate, but nevertheless, the idea of losing her is what threatens him the most. He wouldn’t take any serious rival for her affection lying down.

There are also some top-secret developments ahead in the kid department, which is a departure from historical fact.

aplan: Yes, there will be a new baby—or babies—in the mix, and the impact is going to be tremendous. Aside from that, Virginia’s daughter is 15 and her son is 17. While Virginia is out teaching the world about sex, she’s not doing the best job of that at home.
Sheen: Bill’s son John is a teenager as well—and Bill is not someone who chooses to hang out with teenagers. But now he has to.
Per usual, there will be plenty of on-screen hanky-panky. By this point, does filming those scenes feel like old hat?
Sheen: I’m pretty unfazed by it—although I was never that fazed in the first place. It takes a lot to make me uncomfortable.
Caplan: I don’t know if it ever fully becomes old hat for me. Every time I think I’ve got it handled, they come up with some insane s–t that totally spooks me!

Do you ever encounter strangers who want to confide intimate details to you? Is oversharing an occupational hazard of this job?

Caplan: It blows my mind! My favorite is when people—usually baby boomers who remember Masters and Johnson from back in the day—come up to me on the street while I’m in the middle of a phone call and want to get right into it. I know a lot about the sex lives of 60-year-old women!
Sheen: That doesn’t happen to me. Maybe it’s because Bill is off-putting, so people don’t feel like talking to me about that…and I don’t want them to.

Masters of Sex, Returns Sunday, July 12, 10/9c, Showtime