This TV Show Is Proving '70s Style—and Politics—Are Relevant as Ever

The setting of HBO’s new hit series The Deuce—Times Square in New York City—may be iconic, but it’s practically unrecognizable for most millennials. After all, it’s been decades since the Big Apple hub looked as it did during the rise of the porn industry, which is the main plotline for the James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal series. The onscreen fashion, however, is another story. Wide-leg jeans, peasant blouses, colorful knits—The Deuce is filled with enduring styles. And thankfully, we had a chance to speak to one of the stars who not only wears them all but as she disclosed, she will undergo a bit of a style transformation as the series progresses.

Margarita Levieva plays the youngest lead in the series, a college student named Abby Parker. “She’s 20, but she’s wise beyond her years, and she’s got an old soul,” Levieva tells us about her character who eventually drops out of school and becomes entangled in the characters she meets around Times Square, including a bar owner (Franco), the sex workers who work in the area, and the police who patrol it. “The way I see, Abby is like a sponge just soaking up everything from the environment to the people to the music and art. There was so much to explore and experience, and I feel Abby is just stepping her toes into that.”

While Levieva admits that she doesn’t think fashion is the primary form of self-expression for Abby, it’s hard not to draw parallels between the character’s wardrobe choices and how much she absorbs of the world outside her Connecticut upbringing. And similarly, it’s just as easy to connect the storyline of women’s liberation in the ’70s to current events in 2017. Ahead Levieva tells us why Abby is such an inspiring role, how she changes through the course of the season, and why a 40-plus-year-old plot about the porn industry may be as relevant as ever.

Photo: Paul Schiraldi

WHO WHAT WEAR: What was your first impression of Abby when you first read the script?
MARGARITA LEVIEVA: The thing that drew me to her immediately was just her ferociousness, precariousness, intelligence, bravery, and this wise-beyond-her-years, soulful mentality. It’s really exciting to play a woman who’s not dependent on anyone, is seeking her own way, and who’s also finding her own voice. I saw Abby as a pioneer even though she’s really young in the first season of the show.

WWW: Was there anything that surprised you about her?
ML: I think the surprises were that I sometimes find myself falling into a one-dimensional point of view thinking that well if she’s really smart, then how free is she sexually? or if she’s really independent, what is her relationship to men? Unfortunately in film and TV, when the writing is not great, characters tend to get one-dimensional. You have the stereotypes—the “pretty girlfriend” or “quirky best friend” or “bitchy villain”—and if the writing is not good, all the audience gets is one side of the character. One of the reasons I was so drawn to this project was the writing was so deep and honest and really provided a landscape where a full-fledged complicated woman could come to life in a way that explored all aspects of one’s personality.

WWW: Getting into costume is a huge step of getting into character. So, how would you describe Abby’s style?
ML: She grew up in Connecticut, and this is her first time living in New York. As we move through the show, we find out this is her first time living among these colorful, vibrant, unique personality types in Times Square. But starting out, I think Abby’s style is a bit more conservative and classic—even within the ’70s styles she finds a classic way of being. She’s not really flamboyant or outrageous in any way as far as her fashion goes—people really pushed the boundaries in that time, and I think Abby is still playing it safe. At the same time, I didn’t want her to be so colored by her fashion. I don’t think she really speaks through her clothes.

WWW: Will we see her step out in something different as the season goes on?
ML: As far as fashion goes, there will definitely be more risks after the third episode and more risks from Abby going against the grain and going against some of the things she’s been so adamantly speaking out about. Even in the third episode, when she takes the job in the bar after she’s in the pilot speaking to Vincent about not being objectified, not being one of the girls who get into a bodysuit. At the end of episode three, you see her in a bodysuit. Season 2 will be an interesting time to find where Abby lands with all of that because we are seven years later [into the script]. I’m looking forward to that.

Photo: Paul Schiraldi

WWW: We love all the ’70 style in the show.
ML: So sexy.

WWW: Is there anyone, in particular, you look to—as Abby or personally—as far as ’70s style that felt inspiring?
ML: I definitely looked at some of the style icons like Jerry Hall, and I looked at Gloria Steinem, a lot of photography books, Cindy Sherman, Diane Arbus, and Nan Goldin.

WWW: And then in collaborating with the costume designer, how did that play out?
ML: I always have a strong opinion when it comes to fashion, hair, and makeup because I do a lot of research beforehand and have a vision. I also love seeing what people bring to the table, and I love the collaborative process. With Anna [Terrazas], our costume designer, she was just so spot on, and she gave me options that opened up a window into parts of the character I hadn’t seen on my own.

WWW: Were there any pieces from Season 1 that you kept for yourself after you wrapped?
ML: I wish! No, we had to be so careful with these clothes. You know, actually, I did keep a pair of ’70s underwear. They were really cute. They were these baby blue lace briefs.

Photo: Paul Schiraldi

WWW: Was there anything you wore as Abby that felt especially foreign to you?
ML: In episode seven—I’ll tease it to you—Abby wears this very revealing short red dress. It’s actually on the poster for The Deuce. That’s a little out of line with things that I usually like to wear. I’m not a big fan of super minidresses for myself personally, so remembering this is not me, it’s a character is helpful in those situations.

WWW: And finally, now that you’ve played this character for a whole season, what do you think resonates most with women today about the women in The Deuce over 40 years later?
ML: I think every generation has some revolution. The early ’70s were a time of revolution on many levels and certainly emancipation, the introduction of feminism in a new way and women finding a way to break out of the mold of the ’50s and ’60s mentality—the stay-at-home mom with two kids, the two-car garage, the dog, the husband—and finding a way to identify themselves that was more equal to men. Today what’s exciting in 2017, is we’ve been in a place of yet another round of this revolution and addressing some of the topics of women in the workforce and Hollywood. And I think what’s beautiful and compelling and powerful about the show is that we have two male creators who were able to create these rich complex women. I do think the show is feminist in a big way, and that’s what’s so exciting to me.

Photo: HBO