‘Minx’ Star Lennon Parham on Ending Season 1, Penis, Lesbian Twist

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read if you haven’t seen “A Scintillating Conversation About a Lethal Pesticide” and “You Happened to Me”, Episodes 9 and 10 of “Minx”.

“You didn’t ask me to work with dongs!” said Lennon Parham at the end of an interview about his role in “Minx”. “It was a first. In one scene, an actor, Nate [Crnkovich]wore a prosthesis [penis], and it was amazing. We were totally shocked and couldn’t look away. Then everyone got used to it.

Such is life, Parham assumes, when you’re shooting ’70s porn, which is what “Minx” characters do. In the HBO Max comedy, created by Ellen Rapoport, Parham plays Shelly, the older sister of Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond). Joyce just launched the feminist magazine she’s dreamed of all her life—with one catch: the only person who would help her get it off the ground is Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson), a sex magazine publisher. Thus, Minx was born, becoming the first porn magazine aimed at female readers (and featuring male members).

When Shelly first appears in the pilot, she comes across as the platonic ideal of a 70s housewife. But as the season progresses, it becomes clear that she is more open-minded than her militant sister. Joyce is terrified of talking about sex, or letting herself enjoy sex to begin with, until Shelly gently nudges her, revealing that she owns vibrators and enjoys watching men who appear in the pages of Minx. At the same time, she begins to explore more of her own sexuality. After admitting to husband Lenny (Rich Sommer) that he doesn’t satisfy her in bed, she tries to escape into fantasies involving Fabio-like characters in lavish costumes, but becomes too distracted and anxious for that. works. So instead, she puts on some lingerie and poses for a camera held by Bambi (Jessica Lowe), a former nude model who now works backstage at Minx, who tries to help her find her groove. Bambi gently encourages Shelly, who finally realizes who makes her feel good about herself – she grabs Bambi and kisses him. They spend the night together, but the next day, Shelly returns to Lenny and hands him the pictures Bambi took.

With season 1 now over on HBO Max, Parham spoke to Variety about getting dirty as a 70s liberated woman.

Tell me about your first involvement in “Minx”.

I got an e-mail saying, “Do you want to put yourself on tape for this 70s porn comedy?” Well, they had me in a 70s porn comedy. It was like the funniest pilot script I had read in years. We went through the traditional process. We shot the pilot – the pre-vaccines – in downtown Los Angeles, and it clicked from the start. It’s like totally fresh. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. I think it’s a joy to watch, the clever way they edit it, with quick cuts. It keeps you on this moving train.

Ellen [Rapoport] was very communicative, generous and sharing. It makes you feel respected, involved and included, no matter how big your role. She texted me like, “Hey, do you have five minutes? I just want to tell you about Shelly’s arc. Because I was about to have a fitting, and she didn’t want me to come in and try on corsets and lingerie without knowing why. Shelly’s wardrobe changes a bit. As she loosens up, her wardrobe loosens up. So she wanted to take me through this, and I was appalled. I was so excited. It’s so much fun to play a real character arc, you know?

What were your first impressions of Shelly? At first, she looks like the archetypal American housewife, but turns out to be more badass than Joyce, who is the outward feminist.

We meet Shelly through Joyce’s lens. Joyce knows nothing about [Shelly’s sex life]. The culture at home was that we didn’t talk about it. The culture at the time wanted us not to talk about it. It seemed to me that Shelly only talked about sex with her hairdresser. So at first the extent of Shelly’s opening was unclear, but we see that she lived a woman’s life in 1972. She had children in her late 50s. Joyce is the textbook feminist, but has no street smarts. She read all the books, but she didn’t apply them to real life. Shelly, having lived this life, is more open to aspects of feminism that weren’t talked about. She somehow saw them secretly.

What kind of research or preparation did you do to situate yourself in this era of the 70s?

I researched some sexy stuff, because I really wanted to build on it and deliver with some respect around this relationship. She takes this big risk. So I looked up stuff for that. But to be honest, I was born in 1975 and – this is going to sound weird – I feel like a backing vocalist for Donna Summer or something in the early 70s. That kind of music, I understand at the cellular level. It doesn’t make sense, considering I’m an 80s kid, really, but yeah. I didn’t have to do a lot of research. And I surrounded myself with music. When I was driving to the set, I was listening to the greatest hits of 1970. And my dad also had all the tapes growing up, so I have all those lyrics in my head forever. They also did a lot of research for makeup and wardrobe. It was an easy access point. The make-up trailer was totally covered in images from that era of all colors, ages, and people you’d meet in sexy magazines, and also, like buttoned-up Italian brides.

One of the most defining scenes of the season occurs when Shelly tries to use different fantasies to improve her sex life with her husband, but everything goes wrong. What happened in the filming of that?

There was like some serious mental preparation, because I knew that when I was going to shoot, three-quarters of the day would basically be back-to-back kisses with guys I’d never met before. It’s just like, “OK. This is my job.” Also, do I say goodbye to my kids in the morning, take them to school, then go out with a bunch of different men? It’s a pretty weird world. Like, two separate lives. Shelly’s rich inner life, I find very interesting. There are the tropes that get it there, but then the reality of things sets in. I’m very into trying to escape and being pulled back by an errant button or having to scold your children. It saturates and permeates every part of your life when you are a mom. So trying to get like a piece of life for yourself, that’s just for yourself, without being touched by it, is almost impossible.

The shoot was crazy. We spent a lot of time on the first sequence where the guy from Heathcliff makes an appearance. He wore this wig that reminded me of Winger, and I had a poster of Kip Winger above my bed in middle school and high school. He was super funny. It was overdone. Honestly, I was like, “This is supposed to be funny, right?” It’s written like it’s funny, but it’s also his fantasy, so I didn’t want it to be too funny. But he said to me: “No, go ahead! Let’s make accents! Let’s be ridiculous!

And then I kissed the priests. These guys were like stuntmen in their own right. So they had worked very hard on their stunts, and kissing with them was like there was a little waterfall on my face. And there was a horse, and we were on hay bales, and Rich Sommer is such a good sport. I have never shot like this. I’m much more comfortable with comedic makeup. I never spent a lot of time shooting sensual and sexual scenes that were supposed to be believable. It’s all been a bunch of crazy comedy language.

So what was it like shooting a more serious sex scene, when Bambi takes boudoir photos of Shelly and they kiss?

We had a Zoom call about it with the intimacy coordinator and the director, and we talked about what we were going to see, how it was going to feel. Natalia wanted it to be very passionate and not super sweet, although I think it still achieved a certain level of sweetness. But the initial leap for me, being the instigator of this makeup, I must have been quite overwhelmed with feelings. So I did some of my own personal research here, like watching movies that I thought would be inspirational. I watched “Afternoon Delight” again; I watched “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”.

For Shelly, it was not a possibility that had ever occurred to her, at least never to seriously consider. And at the time, a move like that could have cost her everything she already enjoyed. So I think that surprises her as much as anyone. I think it feels really good, and I think she’s just following the good feelings. She feels really good with Bambi, this woman who is just totally comfortable in her body. It looks like they are almost dating, even friendly encounters. They just love being together and have that zing you feel when you first meet someone you have major chemistry with.

Ultimately, however, she leaves Bambi’s house to return to her husband. What do you think of the way Shelly and Bambi left things?

I don’t think she’s done with Bambi. There was a sharp close-up of the bracelet Bambi had given her. I feel like Shelly had a quote-unquote moment to come to her senses. Like, “What am I doing? I have to cook dinner for my family! I missed my son’s game! I live in this sultry pigsty! This isn’t real.

But something has clearly changed in her and opened up in her. She wears pants for the first time. She shares these photos [with her husband]what I think [shows] a cracked version of her. The target was Bambi, basically. She tries to bring passion back to where she thinks it’s meant to live, and it never works. It’s heartbreaking, but fingers crossed, if we get a season 2, we might find out more.

This interview has been edited and condensed.