LOS ANGELES — The first thing I see on the set of director Jacky St. James’ new movie is Keira Nicole standing in the bathroom in her underwear.
The pretty blonde happens to be in the middle of a pivotal dialogue scene with her on-screen hubby for the day, Chad White. She wants to break the news to him that her best friend is a swinger and would like them to try it.
“OK, panicked because of your best friend — action!” St. James shouts.
They nail the exchange in three takes and St. James declares, “I believed it!”
It’s the first day of “The Swing Life,” a vignette movie produced by New Sensations that will kick off a series dedicated to exploring the swinger lifestyle.
For Nicole, acting is still something she’s getting the hang of, but from all appearances, she may be a natural.
“Keira is very new to the business and I never thought she would have what it takes to do dialogue as well as she does,” St. James tells me. “But she really takes direction.”
The day’s agenda calls for 10 pages of dialogue and two sex scenes — Nicole and Michael Vegas; and White and Jodi Taylor, who is sitting downstairs in the makeup chair.
St. James says she chose this cast “because I think that they offer something really dynamic and I always try and cast people based on their personalities.”
“Jodi is really like more of a hippie girl and kind of out there, and Keira is more reserved,” St. James explains. “I wanted them for the contrast of the seasoned swinger and the oh, I don’t know if I could swing girl.
“And Chad, he can pretty much do anything and I trust him. I’ve used him a lot in leading roles. He can play super sexual or he can play uptight. … Michael Vegas is kind of like Jodi, like ‘I love everyone, I can find love and sexuality in everything!’ So that’s why I picked Vegas.”
For St. James, the 2015 XBIZ Director of the Year, identifying adult performers with credible acting skills is one of her ongoing challenges, but she often discovers hidden gems.
“Most don’t have any experience, so for me it’s, do they have the ability to emote? Can they even do that?” she continues. “So I always like to find people that have a sense of self-awareness and can really take direction and run with it. It’s not common, so I tend to use the same people over and over again.”
To say St. James is finding her rhythm four years into her adult industry career would be an understatement. The native of Northern Virginia operates at the top of her game, writing, producing and directing couples-driven movies that always seem to titillate and continue to resonate with fans and critics.
And she’ll be the first to say she benefits from the strong team around her, starting with her husband and fellow XBIZ Award-winning director, Eddie Powell, who is on set today manning one camera, while longtime St. James-Powell collaborator, Paul Woodcrest, controls the other camera.
This trio is so comfortable working together they finish each other’s sentences without even realizing it and set up carefully framed, subtlety lit shots with little more than a few glances, nods and hand motions.
“We can read each other’s minds,” St. James admits. “They have a really good eye for the visual and I have a good ability for the emotional. Because of that we have a deep respect for each other.”
They also have earned respect from the talent that are happy to have the opportunity to act and perform for this elite production crew.
“I love New Sensations because of Jacky,” says Jodi Taylor, a native of Idaho who started doing porn in 2012. “New Sensations itself I don’t really know much about. I just know that Jacky runs it and that’s why I like working for them so much. Because obviously not only is she so much fun, but she does really good stuff. So it’s a really good combination.”
A former mainstream production assistant before porn who now has more than 150 credits, Taylor said she likes being in character — for the “The Swing Life” she is the extra slutty Gillian, who instigates the swinging.
“I like the playing the part thing. It feels naughtier because you’re usually doing something that you could never really do in real life,” Taylor tells me. “Things that are taboo, or just acting the way you would never do in real life — like being a really bad person sometimes. So that’s really fun to do.”
She’ll bang Chad White for the first time later, a rare occasion given Taylor’s experience level.
“It’ll be fun. It can actually be exciting because in the industry right now pretty much I know everyone,” Taylor confesses. “I’ve worked with everyone a dozen times, so when it’s someone new it can be pretty exciting. … And Chad has a good reputation.
“This feels like someone you know in school, but you’ve never actually met them. You’ve just kind of seen them around. And you finally get to interact and have sex.”
White, who is from the North County area of San Diego but now lives in Riverside County, has emerged as one of porn’s versatile go-to performers in recent years — a guy able to act and do gonzo scenes with equal gusto.
In January, he won the XBIZ Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Second Chances” for none other than St. James and New Sensations. Today he feels right in his element.
“The acting part is much more enjoyable,” White tells me as he’s waiting for Taylor and Nicole to finish some dialogue by the pool. “I tend to like it a little more.”
He recalls first meeting St. James when she asked him to come to the New Sensations office to read for a part.
“So I’m just dry reading the script, and she started yelling, ‘Come on! Get into it!’ And I didn’t know that [Eddie Powell] was her husband standing right there behind her. So I grab her chair and pull her in so we’re face to face. And [Eddie] was like, ‘Let’s see where the hell this is going.’”
It turns out White’s bravado worked.
“She was like, ‘Great, you got the part!’ And I’ve been shooting with them ever since,” White adds with a grin. “[Eddie] thought it was hilarious. I kind of thought I was a douchebag afterwards but I was like hey, I left a lasting impression.”
White says his fans like it when he acts; many of his female admirers even comment on the clothes he’s wearing or if he’s got on one of his two wedding rings.
“It kind of humbles me a bit because I feel liked. I like the attention,” White admits. “The fact that someone cares that much to follow me and get that into my work, I appreciate that a lot. They mean everything to me. Fans to me are everything.”
Before porn, White worked for what he calls “a plethora of companies.”
“A lot of construction companies. I opened my own companies when I was younger. Had a pool cleaning service, landscape, maid service, plumbing, and house restoration. So it was like all in one. I would go to a house, spot everything that’s wrong and have teams come in. I also tried to become a cop and that didn’t quite work out,” White reveals.
He was close to attending cadet school on his way to a career in law enforcement when he was told he was no longer welcome in the program.
“If someone that’s living with you has a felony, you can’t become a cop,” White says, adding he found this out the hard way.
When it comes to holding down a regular shift as a guy in porn, White says a short memory is a requirement.
“You have to prove yourself all the time,” he says. “Like I was told in my first couple of scenes that you’re only as good as your last scene. And I still think that holds true. If you’re not good enough, the next guy’s going to come in and take your scene for the day. If you can’t perform, something goes wrong. Anything that goes wrong you’re going to get replaced by a younger, better-looking guy.”
The California native Keira Nicole may still be less than one year into her porn career, but she tells me it’s already her third time working for St. James.
“I love the acting part of it,” Nicole says while she studies her script. “We haven’t even gotten to the sex part and I’m just having a really awesome day here with the cast and crew. I would not want to be anywhere else but here on set.”
Nicole landed her first New Sensations box cover for St. James’ “Spicing Up the Marriage” from its Tales From the Heart imprint in February.
“She inspires me every time, from just the way I deliver my lines to the angles opening up on camera during my scenes,” Nicole adds. “I’d say I’ve learned the most from Jacky and working on New Sensations shoots.”
Even though she’s running lines with White this morning, it’s Michael Vegas who’ll get naked with her later.
“They’re both hot. I’ve worked with Chad before for New Sensations,” Nicole says. “I’ve never worked with Michael Vegas, never met him, but he seems like a cool guy.”
A former personal assistant to an attorney in Vegas, Nicole says porn has been a positive experience for her.
“I started in July 2014 and ever since then I think my whole life, my world has just changed for the better,” she continues. “I’m developing into this woman, a more sexual being. It’s nice to be able to play out the person I really am and dig deep with who I could be.”
The two-day shoot for “The Swing Life” will see St. James bring in Cherie DeVille and Britney Amber to perform with St. James’ regulars Richie Calhoun and Ryan Mclane on Day Two.
She says once New Sensations owner Scott Taylor asked her to come up with a swinger’s movie that it didn’t take her long to get something on paper. She actually wrote the “The Swing Life” four days before the shoot.
“I’m getting better at it,” St. James says. “Now I’m so familiar with how we have to shoot and I don’t like wasting people’s time so I really write with that in mind. It’s really become second nature to me.
“So I tend to be able write things more quickly than I did four years ago when I would labor over things for months and do like 25, 26, 27 revisions.”
And it’s a good thing because St. James says she’s working on four other projects too at the moment, including an interracial hotwifing movie, a mother-daughter lesbian flick, “The Submission of Emma Marx 3,” and another swinger’s title.
“This is like a Petri dish,” St. James reasons. “If it is successful I can translate that into a feature which is a lot more money and time and resources.”
"The Swing Life" will be released on Tuesday. To see the official trailer, click here.
Photo of Keira Nicole, Jacky St. James and Jodi Taylor by Jeff Koga.