Adult Material: everything you need to know about Channel 4’s new female-led porn drama

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Adult Material is a funny and provocative new female-led drama series from Channel 4 that takes a look at the 21st century world of porn through the eyes of a mother turned industry star.

Porn is the one of the only industries in the world where women get paid more than men: and yet, female porn stars rarely get any credit for shattering the glass ceiling.

Adult Material, a thought-provoking new drama on Channel 4, shines a light on this fact, along with a wider web of moral ambiguities that are caught up in the modern-age era of porn. 

The four-part series takes an inside look at an industry through the eyes of one of its stars, seasoned porn pro and mother-of-three, Jolene Dollar.

When Jolene decides to take Amy, the new girl on set, under her wing, it sets off a series of chaotic events that cause her life to unravel beyond all control. 

Adult Material, created by Skins writer Lucy Kirkwood, is both hilarious and dark: one minute two adult film stars are chatting nonchalantly about Velux windows between takes, and the next, the issue of consent is thrown into sharp relief. 

It tells us a lot about how society judges the adult film business; and like all the best dramas, you can expect to have your own beliefs challenged en-route, too. In a smart move, the series is led by a female writer and director: a choice that is far from incidental in an industry that frequently panders to the desires of men.

Here’s everything you need to know about one of the boldest new shows to air on TV this autumn:

What’s Adult Material all about?

Porn star Jolene is a veteran star of the adult film business; yet like all parents, she still struggles to balance her high-profile career with the incessant demands of being a mum. 

One genius scene from the trailer (below) sees Jolene lash out at a teacher who questions her daughter’s home life.

“That’s what you can’t tolerate,” an incensed Jolene tells the teacher. “That a working class woman who left school with two GCSEs gets paid three times your wages doing something she’s really good at.”

The drama takes a more serious turn, though, when Jolene befriends Amy, an unstable young woman who is trying to make her name in the porn industry.

Since Amy is only a few years older than her eldest daughter, Jolene naturally feels protective towards the up-and-coming actress, but she cannot foresee the dramatic consequences of their relationship that will ricochet across her work and personal life. 

The nastier side of societal censure is explored in Adult Material when Jolene’s car is vandalised with the word “slut” scrawled across it; and her children are unwittingly drawn into a growing scandal. 

Meanwhile, the changing face of the adult movie sector from squalid backroom shoots to mainstream megabucks business is captured by porn mogul (and Jolene’s lifelong friend) Carroll Quinn. 

Under increasing pressure to make his content profitable in the face of free internet porn, Quinn must make difficult choices about which boundaries he is willing to cross.

Adult Material is created by screenwriter Lucy Kirkwood

Who stars in Adult Material

Sheridan Smith was originally slated to portray Jolene in Adult Material, but scheduling conflicts meant she had to pull out. The lead role is now being played by the brilliant Hayley Squires, who recently appeared in the BBC TV adaptation of Jessie Burton novel The Miniaturist

“I am so excited and incredibly grateful to be playing Jolene Dollar, she is like the wildest dream,” she says. “I’m very lucky to be part of a female-led crew and an incredibly talented cast.”

Rupert Everett steps into the part of her close pal and porn producer, Carroll Quinn. Siena Kelly, who  appeared in the ITV version of Vanity Fair, joins the cast as new girl of the business Amy. 

Adult Material also has Game of Thrones’ Joe Dempsie on-board to play Rich, Jolene’s adoring long-term partner, while Downton Abbey’s Julian Ovenden brings the more extreme side of the adult film business to life as US porn kingpin Tom Pain. 

Kerry Godliman plays Stella Maitland, a local MP who becomes Jolene’s unlikely ally as the scandal rumbles on. The series is directed by Dawn Shadforth.

Is there a trailer for Adult Material

There is, yes. Take a look, below: please be aware that it contains strong language and scenes of a sexual nature from the outset.

Why should I watch Adult Material?

It’s set to be hilarious, for starters (one great line from the trailer sees Jolene tell her MP, Stella: “everyone has a price”, to which Stella replies, “No they don’t. What’s the exact figure that Angelina Jolie would agree to, to be f***** in the arse on camera?”)

But Adult Material is being hailed as a brave and important show, too. Despite what a huge business it is, many people still don’t understand how the porn industry operates, or the myriad of issues that those who work within it face.

This is a rare chance to understand the adult film business from the point of view of a female-led production team, as well as confronting a few uncomfortable truths about how society judges pornography. And who knows, you may have your own views tested along the way, too.

Caroline Hollick, head of Channel 4 drama, says it all when she comments: “We’re hugely proud of this bold, funny, ground-breaking drama.”

When does Adult Material come out?

We don’t know an exact date but it’ll be sometime in October on Channel 4 (the series was pushed back from spring to autumn so that it could air in a post-watershed slot of 10pm). We’ll keep you posted as soon as we know more.

Images: Channel 4, Getty 

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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