The sex scenes in Sky Atlantic’s new historical drama Catherine the Great were “liberating”, according to star Jason Clarke.
The actor, who shares numerous intimate scenes in the miniseries, said these moments were a “wonderful way of just showing that appetite of humour, fun and enjoyment” in the show.
Clarke’s co-star Gina McKee said the raunchy scenes depict the “completely different attitude” to sexuality that was present in 18th century Russia.
Helen Mirren portrays the ruler of the show’s title in the lavish new series, while Jason Clarke portrays her younger lover Grigory Potemkin.
Read more: Mirren hits out at Netflix
McKee, meanwhile, plays Catherine’s close friend and confidante Countess Praskovya Bruce, who reportedly had the job of “testing” prospective lovers, including Potemkin, before they were allowed to visit the Empress.
“It was a completely different attitude towards morals and sexual behaviour,” McKee told Yahoo Movies UK.
“We cannot judge it through the last hundred years of what we've got used to.”
The Bodyguard star added: “The important thing for me is that, whenever there's a sex scene, you need to know what the narrative is of the story. Because if it's just a sex scene, then what the hell are we doing?
“So always for me the key is to know what the narrative is and to progress the narrative. That validates what you're doing.
“If it's just about people watching sex, then that's just a bizarre project that I will not be a part of.”
Clarke described the scenes as “quite liberating” and the 50-year-old said they were fun to film.
He said: “Each scene releases something in the character for you and you have to find it. I had no idea we'd end up where we did end up.
“It was a wonderful way of just showing that appetite of humour, fun and enjoyment.”
Catherine the Great opens in the aftermath of the successful coup that saw Catherine overthrow her husband’s rule and attempt to assert her power in the wake of scepticism both inside and outside of court.
Read more: Clarke loves British period drama
Clarke said Mirren, who has spoken out about her own historical nude scenes, is “extraordinary” in her lead role, adding that the show’s depiction of a woman in power is rare even two hundred years later.
He said: “From an Australian point of view, the one female Prime Minister we had was treated terribly. I think the last female Prime Minister here [in Britain] was treated terribly.
“Although now it's a free-for-all and everyone is treated terribly.”
McKee said it is important to be able to represent different perspectives on both the big and small screen.
She said: “There are hundreds of millions of stories and what we need is the platform to show all of them so we don't hold up one of those stories as the model to answer everything. It can't.
“So bring it on, let's have lots of stories so we can all explore our feelings.”
Read more: Mirren eyes up Bond villain role
Catherine the Great marked its arrival on TV in dramatic fashion with a London premiere, attended by Mirren, who was carried along the red carpet in a luxurious sedan chair.
All episodes of Catherine The Great are available on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV from 3 October.