The ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ Starz Prequel Has a Wickedly Toxic Valmont in Nicholas Denton

Yeah, definitely. Specifically, looking at the intimacy scenes between Valmont and Camille, there is a sense of respect and love and deep connection, which makes it so beautiful to watch. The difference between those and the scenes between Valmont and Genevieve de Merteuil [Lesley Manville], Florence de Regnier [Paloma Faith], and then later with Carice [van Houten] as Jacqueline is that Valmont knows how to make people feel free and liberated, and also how to make them fall in love with him: He abuses his privilege. “I can see you, we can have the most amazing sex, but my ulterior motive is to get your letters to get ahead.” 

Camille and Valmont are both sex workers in a sense, but his letters are worth more than money in the long run.

That’s actually an amazing parallel that Harriet’s shown: They both use sexuality to gain power, because what else do you have at that time? Sex is the most expensive thing you can use to buy and sell. You think about the Marquis de Sade, or you think about the debauched stuff that happened in the 18th century: fetish, kink, that was all commodifiable, and it also gave you power. You could be inside of a certain group, you could be in The Labyrinth [an underground sex club], or if you were boring, you’d be kind of an outcast. You wouldn’t be a part of that world.

Alice and Harriet gave an interview in which they both described the show’s “innate queerness.” And yet that’s one frontier that we haven’t seen Valmont explore. Is he limiting his social climbing capacity by not being more broad-minded?

Throughout the book, there are lots of allusions to Valmont’s liaisons with men. We don’t necessarily know how it’s going to shift in the second season. I think that the queerness that exists within this world is very prevalent. We see that with Camille’s character and Ariadne in that scene [in The Labyrinth in Episode 4]. There’s also the Chevalier de Saint-Jacques, and the other Valmont, my stepbrother [Prévan, played by Ahmed Elhaj]. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Valmont’s character in Season 2, but I do imagine that we’ll find ourselves in those kinds of places.

You brought up the wardrobe earlier as an element that helps you develop a character. The code-shifting that Valmont has to do is really reflected in his wardrobe. How did those costumes help you to get into Valmont’s various modes?

The bells and whistles, especially when he’s going to the opera and those elegant parties, are so lovely. You’re kind of navigating it, making sure you’re not too affected with the style and the costume, but also leaning into the more luscious, edible, decadent kind of characteristics. He’s much more expressive with his hands and language in that mode. Then once that’s all taken off, he’s allowed that space to just be himself, very raw and very free and very real.

 Then as Lucien, he’s got a much more quiet, composed, delicate nature. But that comes with being in black. And I don’t have to push against anything or lean into anything.

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