As Season 1 of Showtime’s Sunday drama “Masters of Sex” drew to a close last December, Bill Masters’ (Michael Sheen) life was in ruins. He’d just lost his job at Washington University in a public humiliation, he was on the outs with wife Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald) after she’d given birth to a child he didn’t want, and his relationship with colleague-with-benefits Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) wasn’t doing too well, either.
So as Season 2 opened last week, viewers learned what Bill’s doorway declaration of love to Virginia was all about. And like everything and everyone else in this series, it wasn’t what it appeared to be.
“Season 2 begins with a man who has to kind of work out who he is when everything that gave him his sense of self has been taken away, really,” Sheen explains to Zap2it. “His home has been invaded by this strange, alien creature that terrifies him, this little baby they’ve had. And because of what happened just after the end of the last episode of the first season, Virginia and Bill both have different experiences about … which we sort of start to see and that affects their relationship.”
“The idea of identity gets explored,” Sheen continues. “He’s someone who’s gotten his whole sense of who he is through certain things in his life that are now not the case; he doesn’t have them anymore. So he has to sort of find out who he is again now and what’s important to him.”
So is it possible that the steely, guarded, dour Masters could loosen up and smile once in a while? Sheen, known for his meticulous research in playing such real-life characters as David Frost and Tony Blair, indicates that the real William Masters did just that as he aged.
But just when that happens in the series Sheen isn’t saying.
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“He was clearly a man who was quite difficult to get to know, didn’t have many friends, if any really,” Sheen says. “People felt that he was, certainly early on in his life, a very cold, quite intimidating, quite frightening man. But he’s someone who clearly changed as time went on and that was something that I was fascinated by. Because by the end of the life of Masters and Johnson, it was Johnson who was seen as being sort of the difficult one and the rather frightening and intimidating one and Masters was seen as quite a friendly older man.”