The Making of a Show Shot From Quarantine

“I didn’t want to do a show with people in boxes on the screen,” executive producer Joanna Johnson tells TheWrap

The five months since the start of the pandemic have seen no shortage of quarantine-related content, but nothing quite as ambitious or technically impressive as Freeform’s “Love in the Time of Corona.”

The four-part limited series was first announced back in early May, barely a month-and-a-half after COVID-19 brought TV production to a screeching halt. At the time, details about the project were scant, simply describing it as “a funny and hopeful look at the search for love, sex and connection during this time of social distancing.” The network said the show would film using “remote technologies,” calling to mind the Zoom reunion panels or one-off scripted outings featuring a row of talking heads.

The final version of “Love in the Time of Corona,” however, bears little resemblance to those other projects.

“I didn’t want to do a show with people in boxes on the screen,” executive producer Joanna Johnson said in an interview with TheWrap. “We really wanted to produce a real show. And I don’t think that you would know, necessarily, if you watched it that we were doing this in quarantine.”

Also Read: Freeform’s ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ Trailer Asks ‘What Are We Doing With All This Time?’ (Video)

MARCO FARGNOLI (DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY), CHARLIE ROBINSON love in the time of corona

Freeform

The original idea for the show came when Johnson’s manager mentioned she had begun dating someone she’d been set up with virtually. “We were talking about the quarantine life for people and how people were still trying to make connections and still realizing the things that were missing in the relationships they had, or thinking about the relationships they wish they had,” Johnson said. “And she said, I think this would make a great show.”

Beyond the shorter runtimes and limited locations — everything was shot inside the cast’s real homes — there’s little to betray in the final product that “Love in the Time of Corona” was shot with remote-controlled cameras and a skeleton crew of only a handful of people. Every scene is covered from multiple angles, with sound and lighting convincingly near the level of a normal production — a far cry from heads in boxes.

“We had a super small crew, but it’s all my team from ‘Good Trouble,’” Johnson said. “I was working with my friends, so it was like a very professional student film; it felt that intimate. And we were all in the trenches together. We were all wearing different hats. Everybody was pulling cable or moving things around, doing what they could.”

On any given day of shooting, Johnson estimates there were no more than seven people on location, including the actors inside and Johnson out in a van nearby. The actors were responsible for their own hair and makeup, as well as a wardrobe sourced primarily from their own closets. One crew member was allowed to enter beforehand when no one else was around to block out the shots, but the actors or friends and family they were co-quarantining with were often called on to help move the two cameras around on the day.

“Compare that maybe seven people to a good 70 people working on ‘Good Trouble.’ It was such a different experience,” she said.

“Everybody gave 110%, but everybody was into it,” Johnson said. “You know, we wanted to pull this off. We wanted to make this work, so there was a great attitude … And the actors were wonderful. They were really enthusiastic and excited to be working. They were excited to be working in their homes and they seemed to like the collaboration, the intimacy of it.”

Love in the Time of Corona

Freeform

With just over three months between series order to series premiere, “Love in the Time of Corona” came together at a whirlwind pace. It tells four tangentially connected but largely independent stories about people living through the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic, with each story tailored to the actors cast to star in them. All actors who appear on screen together were living together at least for the duration of the shoot, including real-life couple Leslie Odom Jr. and Nicolette Robinson and roommates Tommy Dorfman and Rainey Qualley.

“We basically asked agents, ‘Okay, who you got that’s quarantining together?’” Johnson said. “Then I sort of backed the story ideas into that and wrote the scripts, ultimately, in about two weeks to three weeks. And then we were shooting in July.”

The challenge of making such an of-the-moment series, naturally, is the way moments tend to change. The plot of “Love in the Time of Corona” ends in early May, well before the death of George Floyd and the subsequent explosion of protests around the country became a foundational aspect of the so-called “Time of Corona.”

“We were in the middle of the writing of the episodes and the pre-production part when George Floyd was murdered,” Johnson said. “For a moment we paused and wondered, can we still do the show? I mean, would it feel trite, or would it feel in any way, like we weren’t recognizing that part of the pandemic, that part of the quarantine?”

Also Read: Which Summer 2020 Broadcast TV Series Has Seen the Largest Lifts From DVR Viewing?

Love in the Time of Corona

Freeform

Johnson said it was ultimately decided, in conjunction with the network, that the show should stand as it was conceived, as a snapshot of the period in history when the national mood was defined by a sense of isolation and collective loneliness. “Love in the Time of Corona” simply alludes to the conversation about racial injustice bubbling under the surface by weaving the death of Ahmaud Arbery into Odom and Robinson’s storyline.

The show similarly opts not to reckon with the human toll of the pandemic, a task almost certainly beyond the scope of a four-part series shot with such limited time and crew. The disease itself rarely gets a mention beyond the series title.

“I didn’t want to do a show about coronavirus,” Johnson said. “I wanted to do a show really about the effects of quarantine … Definitely, the characters in our show are privileged in the sense that they’re not suffering in the ways that so many people are.”

“Other shows are tackling that, and that’s really important as well,” she continued.

“Love in the Time of Corona,” however, is not a show about tragedy. “We chose to do a more hopeful version,” Johnson said. “When we watch TV these days, you know, we kind of want escape, and we kind of want some kind of positive message. That was the tone we decided to set with this show.”

Love in the Time of Corona

Freeform

“Love in the Time of Corona” will premiere across two nights, Saturday, Aug. 22 and Sunday, Aug. 23 at 8 p.m. on Freeform.

Fall TV 2020: All the Premiere Dates for New and Returning Shows – So Far (Photos)

  • fall tv 2020 premiere dates

    Fall will be here before we know it, and it’s safe to say that when it arrives, everyone will still be staying at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Luckily, dozens of new and returning shows are premiering this autumn to keep you company. TheWrap has rounded up all the dates we know — so far — for Fall TV shows’ debuts. We will continue to update the list as more become available.

    For the purposes of this gallery, we’ve designated Sept. 1 as the beginning of fall rather than the official Sept. 22 start, since “Fall TV” is sure to be more loosely defined this year.

    Also Read: Here’s the Complete Fall 2020 TV Schedule for All 5 Broadcast Networks

    Showtime/FX/Hulu/Fox

  • Teen Mom 2

    Series:  “Teen Mom 2”         Net:  MTV      Premiere Date: Tuesday, Sept. 1        Time: 8 p.m.

    MTV

  • Transplant - Season 1

    Series:   “Transplant”       Net: NBC       Premiere Date:  Tuesday, Sept. 1       Time: 10 p.m.

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  • AP Bio Season 3

    Series:  “A.P. Bio”         Net:  Peacock      Premiere Date:  Thursday, Sept. 3       Time: N/A

    Peacock

  • Series:   “Raised by Wolves”        Net:  HBO Max     Premiere Date: Thursday, Sept. 3        Time: N/A

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  • Away Hilary Swank

    Series:  “Away”         Net: Netflix       Premiere Date: Friday, Sept. 4         Time: N/A

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  • Stormfront Aya Cash The Boys Season 2

    Series:  “The Boys”         Net:  Amazon Prime Video      Premiere Date:  Friday, Sept. 5       Time: N/A

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    Series:  “Power Book II: Ghost”         Net:   Starz     Premiere Date:  Sunday, Sept. 6       Time: 9 p.m.

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  • American Ninja Warrior - season 11

    Series:   “American Ninja Warrior”       Net: NBC      Premiere Date:  Monday, Sept. 7       Time: 8 p.m.

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  • LA's Finest - Season 1 - Episode 101

    Series:   “L.A’s Finest”     Net: Spectrum Originals       Premiere Date:  Wednesday, Sept. 9       Time: N/A

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  • Woke Lamorne Morris

    Series:  “Woke”         Net:  Hulu      Premiere Date:  Wednesday, Sept. 9       Time: N/A

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  • Julie and the Phantoms

    Series:  “Julie and the Phantoms”         Net:  Netflix      Premiere Date:  Thursday, Sept. 10       Time: N/A

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  • Dancing With the Stars

    Series:   “Dancing With the Stars”       Net: ABC       Premiere Date:  Monday, Sept. 14       Time: 8 p.m.

    ABC

  • The Third Day

    Series:  “The Third Day”         Net:  HBO      Premiere Date:  Monday, Sept. 14       Time: 9 p.m.

    HBO

  • We Are Who We Are

    Series:  “We Are Who We Are”         Net:  HBO      Premiere Date:  Monday, Sept. 14       Time: 10 p.m.

    HBO

  • Enslaved

    Series:   “Enslaved”       Net: Epix       Premiere Date:  Monday, Sept. 14     Time: 10 p.m.

    Epix

  • Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous

    Series:  “Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous”         Net: Netflix       Premiere Date:  Friday, Sept. 18       Time: N/A

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  • Pen15

    Series:  “Pen15”         Net: Hulu       Premiere Date: Friday, Sept. 18        Time: N/A

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  • Ratched Sarah Paulson

    Series:  “Ratched”         Net:  Netflix      Premiere Date:  Friday, Sept. 18       Time: N/A

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  • The CW logo

    Series:   “World’s Funniest Animals”       Net: The CW       Premiere Date:  Friday, Sept. 18      Time: 9 p.m.

  • LA's Finest

    Series: “L.A.’s Finest”*         Net:  Fox      Premiere Date: Monday, Sept. 21      Time: 8 p.m.  *Broadcast debut of Spectrum Originals series’ first season

    Fox

  • filthy rich

    Series: “Filthy Rich”         Net:  Fox      Premiere Date: Monday, Sept. 21      Time: 9 p.m.

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  • Rainn Wilson Utopia

    Series:   “Utopia”       Net: Amazon Prime Video       Premiere Date: Friday, Sept. 25      Time: N/A

    Amazon

  • A Wilderness of Error

    Series: “A Wilderness of Error”         Net:  FX      Premiere Date: Friday, Sept. 25      Time: 8 p.m.

    FX

  • Simpsons

    Series:  “The Simpsons”         Net:  Fox      Premiere Date: Sunday, Sept. 27        Time: 8 p.m.

    Fox

  • Bless the Harts

    Series:  “Bless the Harts”          Net:  Fox      Premiere Date:  Sunday, Sept. 27       Time: 8:30 p.m.

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  • Bobs Burgers

    Series:  “Bob’s Burgers”         Net:  Fox      Premiere Date: Sunday, Sept. 27        Time: 9 p.m.

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  • Series:  “The Comey Rule”         Net: Showtime       Premiere Date: Sunday, Sept. 27        Time: 9 p.m.

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  • Family Guy

    Series:  “Family Guy”         Net:  Fox      Premiere Date:  Sunday, Sept. 27       Time: 9:30 p.m.

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  • Fargo Year 4 - Chris Rock

    Series:  “Fargo”          Net:  FX      Premiere Date:  Sunday, Sept. 27       Time: 10 p.m.

    FX

  • Gangs of London

    Series:  “Gangs of London”         Net:  AMC+      Premiere Date:   Thursday, Oct. 1      Time: N/A

    AMC

  • Salisbury Poisonings

    Series:  “The Salisbury Poisonings”         Net: AMC+       Premiere Date: Thursday, Oct. 1        Time: N/A

    AMC

  • Kaitlyn Dever

    Series:   “Monsterland”        Net:  Hulu      Premiere Date: Friday, Oct. 2        Time: N/A

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  • Pandora

    Series:   “Pandora”       Net: The CW       Premiere Date:  Sunday, Oct. 4     Time: 8 p.m.

  • Ethan Hawke Good Lord Bird Showtime

    Series:  “The Good Lord Bird”         Net: Showtime       Premiere Date:  Sunday, Oct. 4       Time: 9 p.m.

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  • britannia

    Series:   “Britannia”       Net: Epix       Premiere Date:  Sunday Oct. 4      Time: 9 p.m.

    Epix

  • The Walking Dead World Beyond

    Series:  “The Walking Dead: World Beyond”         Net:  AMC      Premiere Date:  Sunday, Oct. 4      Time: 10 p.m.

    AMC

  • Soulmates

    Series:  “Soulmates”         Net: AMC       Premiere Date:  Monday, Oct. 5       Time: 10 p.m.

    AMC

  • Swamp Thing

    Series:   “Swamp Thing”*       Net: The CW       Premiere Date: Tuesday, Oct. 6      Time: 8 p.m.

    *Broadcast debut of DC Universe series’ first season

    DC Universe

  • NEXT

    Series:   “Next”        Net:  Fox      Premiere Date:  Tuesday, Oct. 6       Time: 9 p.m.

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  • Series:   “Devils”       Net: The CW       Premiere Date: Wednesday, Oct. 7   Time: 8 p.m.

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  • Coroner

    Series:  “Coroner”         Net:  The CW      Premiere Date:  Wednesday, Oct. 7       Time: 9 p.m.

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  • Supernatural

    Series:   “Supernatural”       Net: The CW       Premiere Date: Thursday, Oct. 8   Time: 8 p.m.

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  • CW - The Outpost

    Series:   “The Outpost”       Net: The CW       Premiere Date: Thursday, Oct. 8   Time: 9 p.m.

    The CW

  • fear the walking dead ftwd season 6 premiere and trailer

    Series: “Fear the Walking Dead”          Net:  AMC      Premiere Date:  Sunday, Oct. 11       Time: 9 p.m.

    AMC

  • Tell Me a Story

    Series:   “Tell Me a Story”*       Net: The CW       Premiere Date: Tuesday, Oct. 13   Time: 9 p.m.

    *Broadcast debut of CBS All Access series’ first season

    The CW

  • Star Trek Discovery Season 3

    Series:  “Star Trek: Discovery”         Net: CBS All Access       Premiere Date:   Thursday, Oct. 15      Time: N/A

    CBS All Access

  • Helstrom Hulu Comic-Con at Home San Diego Comic-Con Trailer

    Series:   “Helstrom”        Net:  Hulu       Premiere Date:  Friday, Oct. 16       Time: N/A

    Hulu

  • Unsolved Mysteries

    Series:   “Unsolved Mysteries”       Net: Netflix       Premiere Date:  Monday, Oct. 19      Time: N/A

    Netflix

  • The Undoing

    Series:   “The Undoing”        Net:  HBO      Premiere Date:  Sunday, Oct. 25       Time: 9 p.m.

    HBO

  • the crown season 3 queen elizabeth conspiracy theories harold wilson anthony blunt russian

    Series:  “The Crown”         Net:  Netflix      Premiere Date: Sunday, Nov. 15        Time: N/A

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  • Animaniacs

    Series:   “Animaniacs”       Net: Hulu       Premiere Date:  Friday, Nov. 20       Time: N/A

    Hulu

Here’s when 51 broadcast, cable and streaming series debut and come back

Fall will be here before we know it, and it’s safe to say that when it arrives, everyone will still be staying at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Luckily, dozens of new and returning shows are premiering this autumn to keep you company. TheWrap has rounded up all the dates we know — so far — for Fall TV shows’ debuts. We will continue to update the list as more become available.

For the purposes of this gallery, we’ve designated Sept. 1 as the beginning of fall rather than the official Sept. 22 start, since “Fall TV” is sure to be more loosely defined this year.

Also Read: Here’s the Complete Fall 2020 TV Schedule for All 5 Broadcast Networks

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