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When Rob McElhenney made the decision to move forward with filming the second season of his Apple comedy series Mythic Quest, he knew it’d be risky — but he hoped the set could steer clear of COVID-19. He was wrong.
The TV show, the second season of which debuts May 7, encountered multiple positives tests during filming, including one potential on-set outbreak that raised questions about the safety of the production. On Friday, McElhenney, who created and stars in the series, addressed the situation publicly for the first time.
“We knew that nothing was 100 percent safe and if we were going to make the decision to go back to work, we could do the best we could do but unfortunately certain things are just uncontrollable, especially if you’re finding that you can’t police everybody all the time,” he said while promoting the show at the virtual Television Critics’ Association press tour.
McElhenney detailed the lengths the production went to keep cast and crew safe. Following studio and guild recommendations, they divided everyone on set into “zones” to reduce potential spread of the virus, mandated ample personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, face shields) and tested frequently. “There were points at which I was tested five, six times a week,” says McElhenney, who notes that any intimate scenes or scenes involving crowds also utilized rapid testing as an extra precaution.
Still, it evidently wasn’t enough to fully protect against the virus. “It’s 200 people working together in these soundstages and it’s really, really difficult,” acknowledged McElhenney, who seemed to suggest that not every on set stuck to protocols as stringently as they should have. “To be fair to even those people who weren’t necessarily following all of the guidelines all the way through, as we all know, it becomes difficult. It becomes difficult because we are social animals and because we have a way that we’re used to working and people fall back into those ways, regardless of how many times they are reminded — or we’re all reminded — that we need to keep our face shields down and please stay six feet apart from each other.”
McElhenney noted that there were “one, possibly two” incidents that may have represented on-set transfer of the virus. “It was not in Zone A. It was actually in Zone B or Zone C during the construction of one of the sets while we were out,” he explained, noting that producers weren’t able to contract trace the event but “did everything we could based on the information we had.” Filming was immediately halted and didn’t start back up again for a couple of weeks. The good news, he added, was that everyone who tested positive made a full recovery and was able to return to work in time.
“A lot of this was really unfortunate,” said McElhenney, “but we were just doing our best.”
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