Showtime’s upcoming drama “The Affair” — which premieres Oct. 19 at 10 p.m. — explores the aftermath of an extramarital affair explored through the distinct memory biases of the male and female perspective.
Naturally, matters of adultery and perspective were at the forefront of the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Friday, with series creator Sarah Treem offering her thoughts on both.
“I think storytelling in general is driven by perspective, and there are two sides, at least, to every story,” Treem offered. “So we wanted to tell a story that was going to capitalize on differences in perspective.”
Setting those differences in perspective amid an extramarital relationship — in this case, between the characters played by cast members Dominic West and Ruth Wilson (pictured above) — made sense, Treem posited, because of the distance that infidelity creates.
“When you’re having an affair, you don’t even have access to what your lover is experiencing. You’re not around; there’s this whole other world that they inhabit that you never get to see,” Treem theorized. “So for the characters, that seemed to be a friction situation to put them in if you really wanted to tell a story from two perspectives and play around with how differently people had experienced the same situation.”
The concept seems ripe for exploring the perception gap between men and women, and — yup — Treem noted that this is a driving theme of the series.
“I’m super interested in gender and how men and women think about stories and tell stories,” she noted. “That was very much a part of how we were originally talking and conceptualizing the show.”
However, she added. the show’s writers are careful to not take sides in the gender war when exploring the two perspectives.
“What we try to do really stringently in the writing of the show is not judge either character. We kind of went into it believing that these were two good people who were committed to their marriage. They weren’t serial philanderers,” Treem noted. “And by chance they’ve both been in very vulnerable places and by chance they both come to meet somebody who they ultimately come to think of as their true love. So what do they do?”
During the panel, West’s dramatic history of playing characters involved in affairs was broached, a subject that the actor tackled with levity.
“I’m trying to think if I’ve ever not played an adulterer before. I suppose it gives you an evil edge, which is always interesting,” West said. “I’ve played a lot of villains, so I was delighted to be cast as a hero, but it’s sort of in a villain context.”
Asked whether she had any personal experience to draw from in the infidelity department, Treem — who was recently wed — demurred.
“I don’t think I can answer that question,” Treem said.