Alice Englert, Nicholas Denton explore ‘Liaisons’ characters’ vulnerability

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Nicholas Denton and Alice Englert star in “Dangerous Liaisons.” Photo courtesy of Starz

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 4 (UPI) — Alice Englert and Nicholas Denton said their Dangerous Liaisons prequel, premiering Sunday on Starz, shows Camille and Valmont when they were vulnerable.

“The book and the film always felt like the backstory between them was always such a potent force in their present actions,” Englert said on a recent Television Critics Association panel.

“It felt really exciting to get to be a part of that original vulnerability that they then do everything they possibly can to shed themselves of,” Englert continued.

In the 1782 Pierre Choderlos de Laclos novel, the 1987 Christopher Hampton play and the 1988 Stephen Frears movie, the Marquise de Merteuil bets Valmont he can’t seduce her ex-lover’s new fiance.

The Starz series begins when Camille is a protege of the previous Marquise (Lesley Manville). Camille and Valmont rise through the aristocracy to become the seducers of literary legend.

Valmont is “traumatized at points,” Denton said. “You also realize that he’s deeply emotional and there are many different facets to him. Sure, he’s sexy and seductive at times, but he’s also a human.”

By the time the book takes place, Camille wagers herself as a prize for Valmont’s successful seduction. Englert said the show will explore what led to Camille and Valmont’s future dynamic.

“Love is not nearly as interesting as what these two have between each other,” Englert said. “If it’s not love, it’s war. If it’s war, is it love?”

Englert said the Dangerous Liaisons series would not limit itself to heteronormative conquests, either.

“Camille is queer like myself,” Englert said.

The Starz series presents the early sexual encounters of Valmont. Denton worked with intimacy co-ordinator Ita O’Brien on navigating the period wardrobe and love scenes with co-stars.

“It was actually the process of undressing and dressing and undressing and dressing,” Denton said. “Getting off three to four layers, and then getting them back on, and then being in the nude, it helps.”

Denton said the wardrobe also changed his posture by positioning his back more strictly. And Englert said women’s wardrobe was even more restrictive than men’s.

“The costumes were, for women, a kind of bondage, literally,” Englert said. “It’s genuinely just so much harder to do anything that could help you literally escape or feel comfortable in the world.”

On top of corsets and dresses, Englert also withstood wigs and other accouterments.

“Sometimes, it’s like there’s a football on your head, covered in hair and jewels,” Englert said. “There was a bull scene that we were shooting for, I think, nearly two weeks at night with gloves and a tent-like contraption.”

Englert said that Valmont and Camille still have an idealism in the show. That made it emotional to explore their vulnerability, she said.

“We had to feel the innocence, the vulnerability,” Englert said.

At the end, Englert said Camille’s manipulative nature would not rub off on her. She found the effort required for Camille to succeed at manipulating people into bed too demanding.

“It’s such a relief we can leave it on screen,” Englert said. “It’s exhausting.”

Dangerous Liaisons airs Sundays at 8 p.m. EST on Starz.

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