When Corona virus shut down production in March, many producers immediately started thinking about how they could not only produce content during the pandemic, but tell stories about what people are experiencing as well.
The first of those type of shows hits the air this weekend with Love in the Time of Corona from Freeform.
The series features four interconnected couples as they navigate their new reality during lockdown.
It stars Leslie Odom Jr. and Nicolette Robinson as parents of a toddler who are working through suddenly spending so much time together while they decide whether to have a quarantine baby; Tommy Dorfman and Rainey Qualley play best friends and roommates who decide to find each other virtual dates; Gil Bellows and Rya Kihlstedt are an estranged couple trying to appear happy for the sake of their daughter (Ava Bellows) unexpectedly comes home; and L. Scott Caldwell portrays a retired teacher who can only spend time with her husband virtually because he’s in a nursing home.
Everything for the series was shot in the actor’s homes with a scaled down crew.
The executive producer of the two-night event is Johanna Johnson, who is very experienced at overseeing narrative series, having helmed shows such as The Fosters and Good Trouble.
Johnson says that when she was working with the actors, “I really wanted to incorporate their thoughts and their experiences. Also, we’re shooting in their homes and it felt like an opportunity to bring some their own reality into the show and that would make it richer.”
In this video about just how the production was run, it’s explained that actors already quarantining together were cast, with family chipping in to help with cameras and lighting. There is also an explanation of just how the team worked to make sure health and safety protocols were met.
Rather than feeling like it was a struggle because of the situation, Johnson says that this experience was a good one for her. “I actually had the best time directing that that I’ve ever had, because it was so intimate. There was such a small group of us that it felt like a team effort, with everyone doing five jobs.”
Ava Bellows, who shares her storyline with her real-life mom and dad, also came to appreciate the scaled down nature of the production. “Originally, I went in feeling kind of intimidated, until I realized, ‘oh I’m just going to be in room with my parents and no one’s really manning the camera so it felt like I was acting for ghosts, which was lovely, and it was in a house I’ve lived in since I was 13. It was really nice.”
The commonality among people of life amid the pandemic plays a key role in the narrative, says Gil Bellows. “Each of these storylines connects to people one way or another, either directly or being able to recognize that these dynamics are similar to ones that either they, or someone close to them are experiencing.
The series also incorporates real-life current events into the storylines, with Robinson and Odom Jr. discussing the Black Lives Matters issue during their segments, which is just how things really happened in their household, says Odom Jr.
He also says that while there will be plenty of art created during this time, there was one aspect of this project that really grabbed him. “The fact that Freeform was looking at love at this time; people trying to find it, people trying to hold onto it. The theme was love.”
It will be curious to see what other content is crafted as a result the pandemic. If it continues for an extended period, maybe there will be a continuation of this series, complete with more relatable love stories.
Whether this is the case or not, for now Love in the Time of Corona offers a respite to the gloom that has descended as a result of the virus, even if it’s only for a few hours, because as the series reiterates, above all, there’s love.
‘Love in the Time of Corona’ airs Saturday, August 22nd and Sunday, August 23rd at 8pm on Freeform.