Motherhood comes with a myriad of new challenges. First, there’s the pressure of having to keep another human being alive and healthy. Next, there’s the alteration of how society sees moms; as wholesome, never-ending vessels of nourishment and happiness.
This often leads to a jarring shift in the perception of female identity, stripping away the individuality of new moms and middle-aged women. However, Netflix’s latest drama Sex/Life challenges that all-too-common thought.
Sex/Life tells the story of the mother-of-two, Billie Connelly, expertly played by actor Sarah Shahi. Billie is a doting parent and wife, but longs to break free of stuffy, suburban Connecticut and go back to her old life as an unruly party-girl in New York City.
Tired of her vanilla life with her husband, Cooper, Billie begins to journal about her ex-boyfriend Brad and their past sexual exploits. When Cooper finds her journal, this causes a rift in their relationship, which begins to seep into Billie’s relationship with her children, friends, and acquaintances.
“As an actor portraying her, it is my role to have so much compassion and understanding for her. Even though she makes choices that sometimes blur the lines of ethics and morality, I have no judgment on her whatsoever. Billie is this woman who on paper, seems to have it all. She’s got the perfect husband. She’s got two great kids, but she just can’t stop yearning for the days of her past where she was with this impossibly sexy ex-boyfriend,” actor Sarah Shahi told us during our exclusive interview.
Shahi added, “She was wild and free, and it was the best sex of her life. We meet her when she’s having this identity crisis and she’s almost being haunted by this and she can’t stop thinking about it. And the whole show sort of centers around her choices. And is she going to take a bite of the forbidden fruit or not?”
Monsters and Critics had the honor of chatting with Sarah Shahi about the greatest challenge of playing Billie in the steamy drama Sex/Life and her character’s journey throughout the series.
On playing Billie
Monsters & Critics: Within the last few months, people have grown more open about the experience of becoming a mother and missing who they used to be. I’ve seen the conversation become trendy on TikTok and Instagram. So, seeing it on the Netflix screen blew my mind. I cannot wait to see everyone’s reactions.
Sarah Shahi: I’m a mother myself, and I have three incredible children. And I relate to that idea of where Billy sits there and says, well, motherhood is great and it’s complex. You can be an incredibly awesome mother, but then you can still wonder about the choices you made and you can still be confused in your life. And the two don’t have to be separate from one another.
I also feel like, in society, it’s like women are somewhat tailored not to question these things and they are not supposed to say it out loud. This show is so brave in the sense that you have this central character who has the guts to question things. She has the guts to say, I have it all and it’s not enough. I want more.
And I love that about her. I love her courage level. I love her appetite. There’s a lot about Billy that inspires me.
On Shahi’s challenges while filming Sex/Life
Monsters & Critics: Billie is definitely an incredible character. Personally, what was the scariest part about playing her?
Shahi: I became a god-fearing woman on this set. I was praying all the time like dear god, please don’t let me f**k up.
My job right before this was on a show called City on a Hill. Before that, I was on Person of Interest for four years. So, I came from this procedural background, and all of a sudden I’m doing this character who’s naked and doing sex scenes every other day, and crying while doing it, having these breakdowns.
I felt such a sense of responsibility. You know, I really felt the pressure. I felt pressure to try and represent and honor every woman or man who has ever wondered what would have happened if you took that left-hand turn instead of that right. I felt a huge sense of responsibility and I was scared. A lot of times I didn’t know if what I was doing was going to work. I didn’t know if people would have compassion for Billie.
Check out our full conversation below.
Sex/Life premieres on Netflix on June 25.