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Five years have passed since season 1 ended in the world of The Deuce (2017-current, Seasons 1 and 2 are now on Showmax). It’s now 1977 and The Deuce’s most intriguing character, hooker-turned-filmmaker Candy Merrell (the series’ co-producer Maggie Gyllenhaal), is butting heads with her award-winning director Harvey Wasserman (David Krumholtz) over her editing of their latest adult movie.

He thinks that it’s too artistic. But Candy thinks they can do better than the mere ins and outs – she wants Stories! Plots! Costumes!

“The films that Candy is interested in doing are different from the films that the male directors are interested in,” admits executive producer Nina K Noble. “Whether there’s a market for that or not is another conversation and something we explore further during Season 2.”

It’s going to be a hard, sleazy, exploitative grind up her ladder to the stars with the men in charge of every aspect of the industry doing their utmost to stamp her down, but Candy has done worse for less. And this time she’s hustling for her dreams.

HBO's The Deuce S2 is only on Showmax
Image: HBO


Candy has to juggle a situation that no man in her industry has to face – a calculation about how much she will allow herself to be sexually exploited and abused to get what she wants.

In episode 3 this season, that comes down to an ugly choice about whether to perform a sexual act or have a door shut in her face permanently.

“Almost every woman can relate to doing a much more subtle version of what Candy is being asked to do in that scene – acquiescing in a way they wished they hadn’t. And that could be a lot of things. Maybe it was laughing at a joke that was totally inappropriate. To actually give the oral sex, I think, is much more rare. But if Candy walks out, you lose everyone’s understanding,” says Maggie. “I think it makes you ask questions about power and sex and commerce, which is really what all of us have been talking about in terms of Hollywood right now,” she adds.

“How have people exploited sexuality? How have they used their own sexuality to get the things that they need, to get the things they feel they need?” asks Maggie. “That’s really on the table in our show, 100% all the time. Candy has no resources and so she is using sex because it’s what’s in her toolbox. For Candy, making pornography is what wakes her mind up. Not because it’s pornography, but because it’s film and because it’s all she has access to.”

HBO's The Deuce S2 is only on Showmax
Image: HBO

Candy and candida

One of Maggie’s inspirations for creating Candy’s artistic journey was finding out about director Candida Royalle.

“She was a woman who was involved in porn as an actress and then became a serious porn director. And we all got inspired by her. She passed away right before we started shooting, but we listened to archives of interviews with her and watched her movies. And we talked to a lot of people who knew her well,” says Maggie.

“She became an inspiration. I don’t think Candy is meant to be Candida Royalle, but hearing her talk, talking to people who knew her, she was definitely one of a few serious inspirations for me.”

She adds, “I had a lot of really interesting conversations and met some really interesting women. I actually found it most helpful to talk to women who were in their 60s now and were sex workers then.”

The Deuce season 2 is on Showmax
Image: HBO

Act Two

But one of the most exciting aspects of Maggie’s research into the role has been exploring the parallels between Candy’s life behind the camera and Maggie’s own experience of the empowering role as a producer.

“I’ve liked being able to see the cuts and comment on them. And have my notes be incorporated into the final product. Being able to see the scripts early, when they can still be shifted and changed. And getting to see that my artistic input has an effect on the final product. I’ve also enjoyed sometimes being able to be a go-between for the things that the actors need on set and the rest of the producers. And [being] a voice for what’s important to different actors at different times, artistically,” she says.

The Deuce season 2 on Showmax
Image: HBO

Maggie job-shadowed Season 2’s directors and has since started work on adapting a book that she would like to film herself.

“Candy is so inspiring to me. I actually have the rights to an Elena Ferrante novel (The Lost Daughter) – getting that required a lot of letter writing – and I’m going to direct it,” says Maggie. “For a long time I bought into the idea that if you are a woman who is a storyteller and a lover of movies, then the best way to express that is as an actress. Obviously, there are women my age who are directors who didn’t buy into that idea, but I did – and now I’ve broken that down inside myself. Now I want to direct, and though I might never put it this way, I didn’t always feel entitled to want that,” she adds.

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