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HBO's 'Coastal Elites' is the Latest in Quarantine TV
September 12, 2020  | By Mike Hughes
 


For months, actors were simply in limbo.

"People used to say show-business was Depression-proof," Bette Midler told the Television Critics Association (TCA) recently. "In the Depression, the movies were the only things that survived."

Not this time. During the COVID shutdown, writers kept writing, and musicians kept recording, but actors mostly stayed at home and waited except for five of them.

Those were the actors in Coastal Elites, which debuts at 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, on HBO. Working in socially distanced ways, they did monologues about distanced lives.

"I had never done monologue work outside of high school theater," said Dan Levy, who plays a neurotic actor, talking to his therapist.

Kaitlyn Dever, 23, was the youngest actor, playing an idealistic nurse who had flown to New York to help. "I thought I was going to be less nervous, doing a monologue in the comfort of my own home," she said. "But, I was way more nervous."

On the flip side was Midler, 74, playing a New Yorker enraged by the Trumpian world. "I'm so paranoid because I'm so old," she said. "I feel like anything can happen to me, even if I go to the post box." But, she said, it all worked out, "and I got a free COVID test out of it."

Sarah Paulson – playing someone who conducts Mindful Meditations online – shared some of those fears. "My paranoia level was high already," she said, "and there were, all of a sudden, seven (crew members) in my backyard. And that was more people than I had seen in several months."

Issa Raye (top) played an upscale woman who moves in Trumpian circles. "Ivanka, in particular, I've always found fascinating," she said. "But not fascinating enough to listen to."

The idea began pre-COVID, as political rage grew, said screenwriter Paul Rudnick. "Everyone I knew was angry and heartbroken and – on every side of the political divide – passionately involved."

Rudnick's main screenwriting success came a couple of decades ago, with Sister Act, Addams Family Values, and In & Out. His writing now, however, began with what he thought would be a theater piece. Then COVID struck, and he kept rewriting them for the new era.

Directing this was Jay Roach, who had started with light comedies – the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents films – and switched to the more political Recount, Game Change, Trumbo, and Bombshell.

His wife, Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles, has taped music performances for charity events, Roach said, with him behind the camera (phone).

It looks like Coastal Elites isn't his only directing job this pandemic season.

 
 
 
 
 
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