'Harlem' cast worked with intimacy coordinators on LGBTQ, comedic love scenes

From left to right, Meagan Good, Shoniqua Shandai, Grace Byers and Jerrie Johnson star in "Harlem." Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios
1 of 6 | From left to right, Meagan Good, Shoniqua Shandai, Grace Byers and Jerrie Johnson star in "Harlem." Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Grace Byers, Shoniqua Shandai and Meagan Good said they work with intimacy coordinators to achieve different effects for Harlem Season 2, premiering Friday on Prime Video.

Byers, 38, plays Quinn, who came out as bisexual at the end of Season 1. Season 2 features her first love scenes with another woman, Isabela (Juani Feliz).


"You want to make sure that everyone feels safe and they're performing at the ability that makes them feel like they could be the most open and vulnerable," Byers told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

Shandai, 33, plays Angie, whose love scenes with multiple male partners lead to comedic mishaps. Shandai said she appreciated that comedic love scenes furthered the plot and helped develop her character.

"It's not gratuitous," Shandai said. "There's comedy happening. There's some kind of dramatic plot line. It's not just a scene you can skip over."


Shandai said she is grateful to have never been asked to perform a gratuitous sex scene, saying she has watched shows or movies in which you still could follow the plot as well had they removed the sex scene.

"In this show, specifically, there's still things happening to the characters in their lives within the intimacy of that moment," Shandai said.

Good, 41, plays Camille and also directed an episode of Season 2. She said she worked with intimacy coordinators on scenes in which she acted and scenes in which she directed her co-stars.

"You're coming up with a game plan and having the conversation so that it's not awkward - maybe even rehearsing it a little bit to know what the choreography could be," Good said.

In the Season 1 finale, Camille told Ian (Tyler Lepley) she still loved him the night before his wedding. Ian called off the wedding, though it was a mutual decision once his fiancee saw him kissing Camille.

Ian and Camille have love scenes in Season 2. Lepley, 35, said the intimacy coordinator helps make those scenes sexy in a decidedly unsexy environment.

"It can be very awkward in that room," Lepley said. "There's people holding the booms. There's people holding the cameras. My hat's off to the intimacy coordinator and everybody that is around to support us to try to catch that moment."


Harlem Season 2 also explores the complexity of the relationships Season 1 set up. For Quinn, exploring a relationship with Isabela is not the end of her bisexual journey.

"It was really difficult for everybody in the second season to put a label on Quinn," Byers said. "You really can't because Quinn still doesn't know what's going on or what she really likes or what she doesn't like."

Quinn does attend a Pride march in one of the Season 2 episodes. Fans can look forward to her colorful, multi-piece Pride ensemble.

"Her Pride outfit was straight-up hilarious," Byers said. "You could tell she worked really long and hard on that. We were going back and forth with the headpiece."

The reunion between Camille and Ian is not "happily ever after," either. Now, they have to figure out where their relationship goes from here.

"What are the next steps?" Good said. "What have we discussed or have we not discussed?"

Season 1 flashbacks showed Ian and Camille's first relationship before they broke up. There are more flashbacks in Season 2, but Lepley said present-day scenes show them forging a new sort of relationship.

"One thing I'm really excited about is just seeing how their relationship redefines itself," Lepley said. "It was one thing back in college. It was another thing when he had a fiancee, and now it's a completely other thing."


Harlem creator Tracy Oliver, 33, said she knew how complicated she planned to make Camille and Ian's Season 2 relationship when she got them back together.

Oliver referred to romantic movies like The Graduate, Four Weddings and a Funeral or While You Were Sleeping, in which couples get together after one ditched their fiance at the altar.

"You just blew up your life," Oliver said. "There's going to be a horrible aftermath of this, right?"

The complexity of Ian and Camille's relationship also allowed Oliver to explore one of her real-life pet peeves. After a fight, Camille texts Ian. She sees the three iPhone dots indicating that Ian is typing, but he never hits send. So, Camille and her friends analyze what might be taking Ian so long to respond.

"Whenever my friends and I are just talking about dating, we're like CSI analysts when it comes to texting etiquette," Oliver said. "The fun and awful part of modern dating is that there's such a focus on how long it takes for someone to respond."

New episodes of Harlem premiere Fridays on Prime Video.


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