With its desire to be relevant on current events, ABC’s “The Conners” was built for disaster, according to the series’ producers — although the show underwent drastic changes for its Season 3 return, as revealed during a virtual press tour panel Wednesday.
Rigid on-set protocols are now a way of life for the series, and that life is being reflected similarly on the show. In the show’s storyline, the loud-mouthed Conner family is quarantining together — and the producers explained that with four episodes are already shot, they’re hoping to continue focusing on the ramifications of the pandemic throughout the entire season.
On top of that, when the team discovered they’d be premiering at the end of October, they rushed into production on an election episode, as well as one exploring how the Conners celebrate Halloween this year.
As one of the first wave of scripted shows to return to filming, socially distant standards have been put into place. Specific zones on-set keep the cast away from each other and crews limited to no more than 40 people at any given time; testing is happening regularly. As far as the live audiences, long a staple of “The Conners,” don’t look for them to return anytime soon. “We’ve talked about it and we feel the risks aren’t worth the benefits,” sids star and executive producer Sara Gilbert.
Without a live audience, the laughter of the cast and crew guides the editor on where to insert laugh track; the producers hope to possibly let an audience watch episodes off-site and have their laughter edited in. Actress Alicia Goranson, who plays Becky Conner, lives part of the time on the East Coast and ended up being quarantined on the West. “My thoughts are very much with those people working alone and missing their colleagues,” she said.
“I felt nervous coming in on the first day,” said actor Laurie Metcalfe, but after seeing the protocols and the commitment to a safe set she was able to relax. “The weirdest part, for me, is when we did finally tape a scene and finally dropping our mask. That felt very naked,” she said.
“The Conners” premieres on ABC on October 28.