Bette Midler on filming HBO's 'Coastal Elites' in quarantine: It's 'like we're on a spaceship'
There's an old show business saying that "the show must go on," and for some in Hollywood, it's going on even in quarantine.
HBO's "Coastal Elites" is one of the few TV shows able to film amid the coronavirus pandemic, in part because it actually takes place during the current global health crisis. Created by Paul Rudnick, the "socially distanced comedy" focuses on five characters across the U.S. dealing with lockdown and the pandemic. The cast includes Bette Midler as a teacher in New York City; Sarah Paulson as a YouTube star; Issa Rae ("Insecure") as a philanthropist; Dan Levy ("Schitt's Creek") as a young actor in West Hollywood; and Kaitlyn Dever ("Booksmart") as a nurse from Wyoming who flies to New York to volunteer at a hospital.
Shooting from their homes or offices separately, with a limited crew, felt like working on a "spaceship," Midler said at a virtual Television Critics Association panel Wednesday.
Filming "Elites" was "just completely bizarre," she said. The crew "cleaned, they kept their distance. ... I felt very well taken care of. I really did, I felt so terrible. And so old. You know, I think I feel like anything can happen to me. I feel that if I go to the post office I'm in trouble. ... (But) every question I had was answered and I got a free COVID test out of it! It was win-win."
Midler's co-star from afar, Paulson, also was anxious about the process, despite feeling confident in the safety protocols.
"My paranoia level was high already, and there were all of a sudden seven people in my backyard," Paulson said. "That was more people than I had seen in an area at once in several months, and they were in my house!"
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Midler added that trying to do her regular job amid the pandemic led to a lot of existential thinking.
"It leads you down all these rabbit holes of thinking, 'What’s next? What else can happen to me?' People used to say that show business was (recession)-proof," she said, noting that during the Great Depression of the 1930s, movie theaters thrived. "Now we discovered that we’re all out of work."
"Elites" premieres on HBO Sunday, Sept. 12 (8 EDT/PDT).