Tan France is a self-described hugger.
One might assume that, being British, he would greet people with a firm handshake and a “how do you do,” but France prefers a big bear hug, particularly when meeting the latest hero he’s making over on Netflix’s “Queer Eye.”
But hugging heroes, their families and pretty much everyone else he meets while shooting isn’t likely to be an option soon.
As with every single production around the country, “Queer Eye” was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the extent of its devastating effect on intimacy on set is yet to be fully assessed.
On the scripted front, there are options for workarounds when it comes to a sex scene or a fight scene, says “You” showrunner Sera Gamble, but at the moment it’s very much a waiting game while showrunners try and work out some “creative solutions.”
“Everybody is on the same page that we’re not interested in creating undue danger for people. But we’re also really concerned with retaining the spirit of the show,” Gamble explains. For “You,” “we still have to make it cool, we still have to make it sexy. We have to, in the best ways that we possibly can, capture that spirit of longing and romance that’s at the center of Joe Goldberg’s character.”
Although Gamble says the shutdown does have its advantages (she and her “You” writers have made more progress cracking Season 3 from home than they would have done with more distractions in-office), she is already planning to push more intimate sequences toward the back of her production schedule in an attempt to buy even more time.
When it comes to rearranging the schedule, Gamble says, “ultimately we’re not talking about anything that isn’t your job every day when you wake up in the morning as a TV producer.” The reasons for doing so are just very specific this time out.
And the reasons are important. CBS soap staple “The Bold and the Beautiful” returned to filming for only one day last week. Plans were to have actor film many scenes on their own, only putting characters together, even in moments of closeness, in post. But they had to halt almost as soon as they started due to not having access to proper testing to ensure safety.
Alicia Rodis, an intimacy coordinator who has worked on HBO series including “The Deuce” and “Watchmen,” is optimistic that, given time, intimacy on set might not look all that different from before coronavirus, though.
“I don’t think removing all intimacy and fights and closeness is going to be a lasting practice,” Rodis says. “We’re in a very specific moment, but intimacy and fights aren’t removed from our real world right now. People are still able to be intimate with each other in different ways — that is not removed from our human nature. Certain norms may change depending on where the story is taking place — we may have to get creative for a little while — but it’s still our responsibility as creatives to tell those stories.”
The role of an intimacy coordinator likely won’t change a huge amount either, Rodis says, but she will have to develop a close working relationship with the COVID-19 officer or medical professional on set, especially as on-screen handshakes or hugs, which might have warranted only casual conversation in the past, could now involve “more in-depth” discussions to gauge whether the actors are comfortable with them.
“You” is a show that involves a little more than handshakes and pecks on the cheek, but Gamble says they already cut away or “imply closeness or contact” in certain moments.
“I don’t think we’re going to get away with making a season of this particular show with absolutely zero contact between people,” she says, “but once you know the essence of the story you’re trying to tell in that scene, then everybody just puts their creativity to work about how to shoot it.”
Whereas “You” already had its most recent season in the rear-view mirror when the pandemic hit, France and his fellow Fab Five had only shot one episode of “Queer Eye” Season 6 in Austin, Texas.
Any speculation about when they will return to set is “just a stab in the dark,” according to France, given that the show involves the hosts constantly touching their heroes’ hair and rooting through their homes in order to convey the “Queer Eye” message of the importance of embracing strangers and people who are different than you.
“Showing just how loving you can be with people you don’t know is such a big part of the show,” France says. “Showing that affection with people who are so desperate to feel loved; it would be a shame to take the element away.”
France says when the series does return to production, grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness will likely have the hardest time, given the “large amount of rules and regulations that have been put into play in place for hairdressers.”
While safety is the primary goal when returning to filming, on a personal level France can’t help but note, “I would like to believe that we’re getting to a point where enough measures are in place where we can hug our heroes once we’ve done enough tests to make sure that everybody’s good. I can’t not hug people; my body aches to touch my new friends when I meet them.”