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With production grinding to a halt in the face of the novel coronavirus, the entertainment industry has found itself navigating uncharted territory. To offer a better sense for how, The Hollywood Reporter is running a regular series that focuses on how Hollywood’s writers, actors, directors, executives and others are living and working in these challenging times.
Andy Cohen had just figured out how to resume his Bravo talk show, Watch What Happens Live, from his Manhattan home when he announced he tested positive for coronavirus on March 20. The father of one has since made a full recovery, returning to both the TV gig and his SiriusXM radio show — though he now does so from his home office. That’s also where he spoke to THR about getting his news from pal Anderson Cooper and how he’s trying to pivot seasons of two Real Housewives franchises (on which he serves as executive producer) now that normal production is impossible.
Let’s start easy: How are you?
I’m doing well. On the mend. I’ve mended. When I got my results back, one of my best friends who lives a block away was about a week into his own diagnosis and really going through it. I just kind of modeled what I needed to do after what he was doing. I didn’t panic. I took it one day at a time.
Now that you’re doing the radio show and Watch What Happens Live from your house, how have you recalibrated?
I’m really focused on staying in my lane, understanding that there are people who want to be in that lane right now. I’m trying to be aware of what’s happening outside, while maintaining the energy and spirit of both shows. We’ve altered Watch What Happens Live, certainly. The last act of the show is very positive and it gives guests a chance to highlight a charity or a small business.
What’s been the easiest adjustment?
I respond to a busy schedule and having a lot of work, so being laid up in my bed for two weeks was a new experience. This week, now that my energy’s back, I’ve really responded well to my office becoming a home studio. I get to wake up with my son in the morning. I do radio for a couple hours, I take a break, I focus on Watch What Happens Live and then I’m with my son for the rest of the day. I try to just take it easy at night.
And the hardest?
Anderson Cooper was asking me, “How are you finding doing your show from home?” And I said, “You know, it’s challenging. I have no prompter!” Then I realized I was talking to someone who’s used to broadcasting from the middle of a flood for eight hours, with absolutely nothing but a microphone. He was perhaps the wrong person to complain to.
What’s your best advice for staying sane right now?
Reading the news but not watching it on television. I’ve been looking at headlines on Twitter and the New York Post app, which is very grim, but I cannot watch TV news right now. I call Anderson probably every 48 hours and he kind of lays it all on the line for me. I am very present and understanding of how bad this is, but I’m not constantly refreshing the news.
Are you still watching TV?
I had been waiting to fall in love to watch Game of Thrones, but I figured a quarantine in the midst of a pandemic was the perfect time. I started last week, and I’m in the middle of season three. I was so out of the loop for so many years, and now I feel like I’m part of something — albeit really delayed. I also watched season three of The Handmaid’s Tale, which actually made me feel better about what’s happening here.
And many episodes of Real Housewives, I’m assuming?
I’m watching cuts of New York, Atlanta, Potomac and Beverly Hills right now. I’m about to screen the finale of Atlanta and give notes on that. We’re trying to figure out how we can do this Atlanta reunion, since we hadn’t taped one yet.
How do you think reality is going to respond to all of this? There are so many shows that were in production — after 9/11, for instance, it was just The Real World and maybe one or two others that actually showed the reaction months later.
All of the shows I just mentioned had wrapped, but Orange County was in the middle of shooting. We’re maybe about a third of the way through the season. Now it’s about figuring out ways to cover what’s happening with them while they’re all in quarantine — because they are all still communicating. The folks at Evolution, which produces Orange County and Beverly Hills, are figuring out an innovative way to make it clear that we halted principal photography while they were under quarantine.
Do you think seeing that nine months down the line will be palliative or triggering?
I think it will be relatable and different. It will represent a piece of the season, and hopefully we’ll all come out of this and they’ll all come together in person. I will say, with [The Real Housewives of New York City] coming back on the air, my inbox has been flooded with people asking us that we dump the whole season at once. I’m glad we waited to air weekly, though. It’s a communal respite for Housewives Nation, as it were. The show is a real escape for a lot of people.
Are you considering taping a remote Atlanta reunion?
We’re troubleshooting that now. It’s definitely on the table.
What have become your go-to comfort foods during the quarantine?
I really had no appetite when I was sick. Frankly, I lost a lot of weight. I happen to be a person who eats out a lot — that’s obviously not happening now — so I’ve been getting a lot of my food from a catering place in the West Village.
Any neighborhood restaurants you want to give a shout-out to?
I live right by Corner Bistro, which has the best burger in the city. I’d suggest anyone get on their bike and go down there because they’re doing carryout.
John Mayer was on Watch What Happens Live this week. Any chance of seeing you on his Instagram show? It’s very soothing.
I agree. John started the whole thing, and now every celebrity is going live on Instagram. He was the guy that was calming people down from their Sunday scaries two years ago. I will join him when he asks me to, but until then I will just watch.
What’s atop your to-do list once this is all over?
I want to go dancing, eat at Via Carota and get back to filming in my studio. I love my clubhouse, I love my team and I love the audience that comes to the show.
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