When 20-year-old actress Lily Powell told her mother she was filming her first sex scene with her boyfriend's best friend, her mother asked: "Does Jordan know?"
Jordan Mooney is Powell's off-screen boyfriend, and he plays Eric, a pot-smoking ratbag, in South Pacific Pictures' Westside, the prequel to award-winning Westie drama Outrageous Fortune. He was relieved it was Reef Ireland (Wolf) who would be Powell's on-screen lover and not a "beautiful sexy guy".
There was no awkwardness between the friends who frequently "hang out" together, said Powell, who plays Cheryl West's sassy younger sister Mandy the Mauler.
"Jordan is an actor so he gets it. We are an open book the three of us. I said to Jordan, 'Ask me any questions I'll tell you all the details before it happens and after it happens'," Powell said.
The nudity in the scene for Westside's final series didn't faze her and she was more focused on nailing her character, a confident and sexually empowered young woman.
"I think women are always told to keep their sexuality to themselves and it was cool to play a woman so free of that and just be herself."
To help her prepare for the sex scene, Powell worked with Tandi Wright, an accomplished actor and intimacy coordinator.
"There should be an intimacy coordinator because being intimate with someone is not only physical but it is psychological as well," Powell said.
"It's important to give women confidence and ensure they are comfortable in the workplace - it's not okay to treat women badly."
Much-loved for her role in Shortland Street, Wright says she's done sex scenes on three continents and has got steamy on Outrageous Fortune, This is not my Life, Nothing Trivial, 800 Words and The Returned.
Since the #MeToo movement, intimacy coordination on the sets of film, television and theatre has gained traction. Wright first took the role 18 months ago and now wonders why it wasn't around 10 years ago.
"I compare intimacy coordination to a stunt coordinator. In a stunt, there is an inherent risk and people can get hurt. I ask actors to tell me what their comfort levels and boundaries are. It's very hard for actors to say no; we are taught and trained to say yes. You allocate resources as you would a stunt scene so there is time to rehearse and there is a budget for modesty wear that includes nipple covers, nude G-strings, and cock socks.
"I've definitely had experiences that were awkward and the communication is terrible. It sounds crazy but producers and actors find it embarrassing to talk about intimate scenes."
In her role, Wright liaises with producers, directors, and actors to make sure boundaries are set, actors feel safe and everyone knows what's going on. And while it may look good on screen, Wright says sex scenes are extremely technical and the furthest thing away from being sexy.
"It's often about your angle, whether the camera is hitting the light. You never have genital to genital, that is an absolute no - there will always be a barrier of some kind. The great thing about Westside is the sex is almost joyous and drives the story forward, which is great because as an actor you know they are not just wanting to check my arse."
Powell appreciated Wright's invaluable advice. She helped get her into the "zone" where she felt comfortable performing to the best of her ability.
Wright, who also played Mandy the Mauler in Outrageous Fortune, suggested Powell channel an animal to get into character.
"Tandi's advice was to think of an animal you think Mandy would identify as. I said 'Hyena' because she's so cheeky. Wolf is a cheetah," Powell said.
Powell grew up in Devonport, where she lives with her parents Anna Thomas, Chris Powell, and younger brother Rupert.
She started her acting career when she was cast as a stroppy teenager on Step Dave but is also studying psychology at the University of Auckland and is a personal trainer. She has set up a gym in her parents' garage but the business has wound down because of Covid.
As a teenager, she lacked confidence and was bullied at school and on social media, she said.
"I was 12 when social media was becoming a big thing and getting into it that young wasn't the best idea. I feel my generation were the guinea pigs and we are seeing the side effects of it now. You put so much of your self-esteem into your followers, likes, comments, and getting the right picture. Social media 100 per cent exacerbated the bullying."
Powell, who struggles with social anxiety, believes there is a stigma with mental illness.
"It makes me feel like I have a weakness or something but I have to be strong and brave every day. I don't think that's being weak."
Anna Thomas said acting was the perfect form of escapism for her daughter.
"As a mother, you felt helpless and angry because you couldn't control it. Strangers would post 'why don't you kill yourself?' Lily could escape from the pressures of school and the bitchiness. I am incredibly proud of what she has achieved. It's given her confidence and it's like a big middle finger to the bitchy girls."
Powell will miss her Westside family, especially Antonia Prebble, Esther Stephens, and Sophie Hambleton, who have been an inspiration for her.
Her dream is to be cast as a Disney princess in a musical, but right now she is happy "living in the moment" with Mooney.
"I love thinking about the future, but he's a spontaneous kind of guy and I love that. Whenever I feel self-conscious and think people are looking at me weirdly I talk to Jordan and mum. He says: 'It's because you are stunning, they are looking at you because you're really beautiful,' so having him and my mum is really amazing."