At first glance, the premise of Showtime’s newest series, The Affair, is pretty straightforward—this is a tale of infidelity. However, it soon becomes apparent that it is about more than that. The story begins with Noah (Dominic West), an author who is spending the summer on Long Island with his family. While there he meets local waitress Alison (Ruth Wilson) and sparks fly. The only problem is they’re both married, and, as we soon discover, they’re narrating the events of their affair from their respective perspectives to a police detective investigating a crime.
As details are revealed, we see each character deal with the repercussions of their actions. “What appealed to me was the conceit of telling the story from two points of view—it keeps the audience guessing and the drive of the narrative going,” says Wilson, whose character is married to Cole (Joshua Jackson) and dealing with a recent family tragedy. DuJour talked to the stars of the show to get some insight.
The dual perspectives allow for the characters to justify their actions, making it harder to place the blame. Was that a conscious decision?
Joshua Jackson: Yes, we try as much as possible to not judge them. Their choices are constantly evolving the moral center of the show so over the course of the season you go back and forth; even though they are making these horrible decisions they’re doing it for love, which is quite a powerful statement.
Each character essentially plays two versions of themselves—is it hard to switch the mindset for each?
Ruth Wilson: It was fun to get to play two different characters, but it’s mostly all in the writing and as the characters get to know each other more the differences even out a bit.
Sex is a big part of the show and not always portrayed in the perfect way it’s mostly done on television or film—how did you approach those scenes?
Joshua Jackson: It drives me nuts when you have a scene with gauzy light and candles, the music is playing and it’s clearly the best sex of this person’s life because the makeup suddenly falls back on her face; it takes you right out of the scene.
Dominic West: You read a lot of scripts where they have mind-blowing sex the first time and what is great about this show is that the first time is a bit of a disaster and it’s more realistic, which was refreshing.
Affairs and infidelity are always murky territories.
Dominic West: I think affairs are something that everybody feels very strongly about. People do horrible things to their loved ones. It’s a hot subject and everyone is qualified to have an opinion, which means people will hopefully see their own lives in it.