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Beau Bridges talks Maine, Masters of Sex'

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Beau Bridges and Michael Sheen in Showtime's "Masters of Sex." Beau Bridges and Michael Sheen in Showtime's "Masters of Sex." (Photo courtesy of CBS-Showtime/Warren Feldman)

Actor Beau Bridges says he recently felt like taking a road trip and soon found himself in 'the beautiful state of Maine.'

'I was looking for a place and asked someone for directions,' he told me last week in a phone interview. 'I said excuse me sir, could you direct me to Bar Harbor?' He said What?' I said Bar Harbor.' He said, Oh. Bah Hah-bah!' I can't wait to get back there. It's such a great state.'

The Emmy and Golden Globe award-winner can be seen in Showtime's period drama Masters of Sex,' (Sundays at 10 PM), which chronicles the personal lives of pioneering real-life researchers William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan).

The series, in its fourth season, may take liberties with the truth but it succeeds with addictive story-telling while shining a light on the duo's work, credited with shaping the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

On Masters,' Bridges is Barton Scully, provost of Washington University, the St. Louis institution where much of Masters' and Johnson's work originated.

'They came out with their book (Human Sexual Response') when I was a young man,' Bridges said. 'I remember it very keenly. It turned the world upside down. Sexuality is something you didn't talk about as a young person growing up. Especially homosexuality.'

Bridges' character on the show is a closeted gay man, a detail not revealed to the actor when he read the script for the pilot episode four years ago.

'I read the script and saw that I was the mentor of Bill Masters and as provost at the university, I'll probably be getting it on with cheerleaders this will be cool,' Bridges remembered. 'Then they told me he was gay.'

Bridges said he relished the opportunity to lift up some rocks' on the subject. 'I saw it as a chance to portray what it was like back in the 50s to be a closeted gay man in a position of power and how difficult that was.'

To help formulate his portrayal of Scully, Bridges said he reached out to gay friends for guidance.

'I talked to them about it and I thought about them a lot when we were shooting it. I have five children and I know that some of their friends had a real difficult coming out to their parents and friends. I was just aware of the life around me.'

During the period that Masters of Sex' takes place, Bridges' real life couldn't have been any further removed from those of the characters on the show.

'I enlisted in the United States Coast Guard when I was 18, when the U.S. put the blockade up on Cuba,' he says. 'I thought we were going to go to war with Russia.'

Bridges says his father (actor Lloyd Bridges) advised the teenager to select a branch of the military and enlist before his duty could be decided by others.

'So I did and was kind of lucky really,' Bridges told me. 'We didn't go to war. I was finished with my tour of duty in the reserves in '68 just as Vietnam really hit. I was really lucky because I saw a lot of my friends get involved in that quagmire and some of them got killed. It was a really frightening time for young people.'

At the heart of Masters of Sex,' the landmark discoveries made by Masters & Johnson are paralleled with their personal idiosyncrasies. Denial, doubt and an inability to connect intersects with their work, which Bridges reminds us was trailblazing in significance.

'They just shined a light. What they did was pretty amazing.'

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