Great Britain

Actress Ruth Wilson’s right… the sheer number of female sex scenes in The Affair is far too much to bare

RUTH WILSON is one of our most talented and intelligent actresses.

She has done us a big favour by inadvertently focusing attention on how women are obliged to get their kit off on screen while blokes get away with showing an occasional buttock.

Ruth lights up everything she appears in and is currently playing a blinder in BBC1’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books.

And she was luminous in Mrs Wilson, playing her real-life grandmother, who discovers her husband had a secret life after he passes on.

She even gave the soapy series The Affair an authenticity and class with her portrayal of troubled, bereaved mum Alison, who has a torrid fling with walking ego and writer Noah Solloway (fellow Brit Dominic West).

There was always an air of mystery as to why Ruth left the successful US show in 2018.

She has always maintained a dignified silence about that but this week disturbing rumours surfaced about exactly why this gifted actress might have decided to quit.

There are claims she felt very uncomfortable about the amount of sex scenes required by her character, as well as a certain culture around filming.

AIR OF MYSTERY

What makes it all the more baffling is that one of the bosses (or showrunners, as they are called in America) was a woman.

In the era of #MeToo, you would think high-powered women in TV and the movie business would be more aware of the issues around female nudity — and sympathetic towards an actress who, by all accounts, felt vulnerable.

I was an avid viewer of The Affair, hooked right from that gripping first episode.

But I have to agree that the number of times poor Ruth had to bare all and fake ecstasy was well over the top. Of course, filmmakers had to depict the forbidden passion that overtook Alison and Noah, who were both married.

But there are ways of doing that without intimate scenes verging on soft porn. I found it all rather unnecessary — and jarring given the intelligent writing and top-class acting from the entire cast.

The series lost its way after Ruth called it a day, limping along for a couple more seasons without her. It even introduced a gimmicky and unconvincing storyline set in the future involving Alison’s daughter.

PALPABLE TENSION

Bosses deny making anyone on set feel uncomfortable in any way, including Ruth. And they insist they never labelled her “difficult”, as has been alleged.

That label is often attached to actresses who speak up — whether about a disparity in pay or how often they are required to appear naked. Ruth is a consummate professional and there is not a “difficult” bone in her body.

According to those who have broken cover, Ruth signed up for The Affair knowing some nudity was required. But she became bothered about scenes that seemed to be included for mere “titillation”.

I wholeheartedly agree that there were just too many sex scenes. Portraying passion need not mean a lot of heaving and squelching. One of the sexiest telly series ever made was the 1995 take on Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice.

All we saw was Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy in a clingy, damp cambric shirt and tight breeches, while Jennifer Ehle, as Elizabeth Bennet, didn’t offer so much as a glimpse of a shapely ankle.

But the smouldering sexual tension and the chemistry was palpable. It was far more erotic than bare bums and boobs.

Listen up, Labour

I KNOW it fell on deaf ears but the hard Left should heed the words of ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said this week Labour was “marooned on Fantasy Island” and needs to change or risk being “replaced”.

To most of Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum lot, Blair is as toxic as Margaret Thatcher. But he is the most successful PM Labour has produced and should be heard.

It’s crucial Labour elects a leader to reconnect with working-class voters who deserted the party in their droves, feeling ignored and betrayed by those in the “Islington bubble”.

I like Caroline Flint, but she lost her seat and is now embroiled in a spat with Emily Thornberry, who sounds like a posh Radio 4 announcer giving us the Shipping Forecast.

She also has previous for patronising exactly the sort of voters Labour must woo back.

Yvette Cooper knows how much a pint of milk costs and Jess Phillips is impressively no-nonsense.

Whoever gets the job it will be tough. Labour was decimated in Scotland and the so-called “red wall” in the North of England has crumbled. We need a credible Opposition to keep Boris Johnson on his toes.

Any form of Corbyn Lite won’t cut it. It’s time for the moderates to step out of the shadows and take back their party – or Tony Blair will be proved right.


Love for Richard

REV RICHARD COLES is a decent, big-hearted man of the cloth mourning the loss of his partner David, who was also ordained as a clergyman.

Most people sent Richard their love and expressed sorrow for his loss. But a few vile trolls told him his beloved David was “in hell” simply for being gay.

Even if you are horrible enough to hold such bigoted views, it is unfathomable to spew this sort of vitriol specifically to wound someone in pain.

What makes it even more disgraceful is that these Neanderthals call themselves Christians. Jesus would have kicked their butts and drummed them out of his church.

Cowell's super downsize

SIMON COWELL proudly showed off his abs on his usual Christmas break in ­Barbados just as a paparazzo “happened” to be passing by.

And who can blame him for being a bit boasty? He has worked his butt off by adopting a proper eating and exercise plan, instead of a faddy diet or dangerous surgery.

That means he has a much better chance of ­keeping the weight off and looking just as good this time next year.

Fascinating Aida age fabulously well

FOUL-MOUTHED, funny and fabulous, Fascinating Aida gets better with age.

The trio have been making us laugh since the early Eighties and this week I was lucky enough to see Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman, right, performing.

If you are easily offended, stay away. But if you enjoy a bit of unbridled bawdiness, you’re in for a treat.

Their take on budget airlines in the song Cheap Flights is masterly, and their Christmas song puts the “C” into the festive season.

The show has real heart too – never more so than when Adele sings movingly about her own story. They are at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, on ­London’s Southbank, until January 5.

If you can’t get to a show, look them up on YouTube. But first, cover the ears of any maiden aunts in your vicinity.

A salute to Jolly Rogers

WHO else but Tom Hanks could play Mr Rogers, the American kids’ entertainer recognised as the kindest, sweetest man in all the world – and the subject of new movie A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood?

Tom brings out the humanity and sheer decency of a man who just wanted us all to be more understanding and kinder to each other.

The film is an utter delight, even if you haven’t heard of Fred Rogers and didn’t grow up hearing him reassure us that everything was going to be OK.

We don’t really have an equivalent over here.

British kids’ TV presenters tend to be slightly manic and luridly colourful rather than softly spoken and gentle.

I came away from the film wanting to be a better and kinder person, while also feeling rather uplifted and optimistic about the human race. It’s not often a movie makes you feel like that about the world.

That is down to the genius of Tom Hanks and to our very own Matthew Rhys, who plays investigative reporter Lloyd Vogel, who initially cannot believe Mr Rogers doesn’t have a dark side.

While he is no saint, there is no exposé to be had because Mr Rogers is that very rare thing, a good man. Just like Tom. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood will find its way on to screens here at the end of January.

Thanks to all

I JUST want to take this opportunity to say a big “thank you” to all of you for your feedback – both good and bad! – for everything I’ve been sounding off about this year.

Thank you for your patience, your understanding and, yes, even your criticism. I really am delighted when readers take the trouble to put forward their point of view.

I wish you all a very happy, safe and merry Christmas. I’ll see you in the New Year.

His Dark Materials fantasy series based on Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy staring James McAvoy and Ruth Wilson