‘For Life’ Star Nicholas Pinnock on Filming During COVID-19: ‘Everybody’s Adapting Well’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Nicholas Pinnock
Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterst

For Life” star Nicholas Pinnock has been made a producer on the second season of the ABC legal drama from Hank Steinberg and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Variety has learned exclusively.

The British actor stars as a man who has lost everything after being unjustly convicted and incarcerated; he subsequently earns a law degree and begins litigating cases for other inmates while fighting to overturn his life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.

Calling the production “very collaborative and very inclusive,” Pinnock says he has “worked harder in this show than I have any other, and kind of beyond my normal role as an actor. And it’s just nice to be acknowledged for your efforts.”

In this difficult and unusual year, in which the world has been beset by a coronavirus pandemic, going back to set on the New York-based production has translated to stricter safety measures. There are various zones that cast and crew are assigned to, and staff from different departments have to remain spaced appropriately.

“We’re used to being in the same room and not having there be such a divide on set, but it’s the only way we can film at the moment [per] New York state regulations,” said Pinnock. “Everyone’s doing their bit, being responsible, and it’s the safe way to film during COVID, and the easiest way for us to get through everything without risk of infection.”

“For Life” had to pause production for two weeks in mid-September, in accordance with local government guidelines, after “inconsistent” testing that resulted in positive, then negative, COVID-19 test results for multiple people involved with the production.

Everyone is doing their best to navigate the new normal, but the new protocols do create challenges to overcome when shooting scenes, Pinnock indicated. Actors keep their masks right up until scenes are ready to be shot.

“Everybody’s adapting to it pretty well,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing, to rehearse with a mask on, because you can’t see these expressions, you sometimes can’t hear as well. But everybody knows what the deal is, and we understand that this is the way that it’s going right now and the way it has to be right now.”

Crew members wear face masks and face shields “pretty much the whole day,” he added.

“They’re the ones that I champion, because it’s hard,” said Pinnock. “I get some respite when I go back to my dressing room, in between setups. I can take the mask off and have some time to breathe, away from having that appendage on my face the whole time. But the crew are just fantastic with no complaints. It’s clear that it’s uncomfortable, because if I can feel it, they can definitely feel it. And yeah, it is different. But, you know, we don’t let it define our process.”

Outside of his work on the ABC drama, Pinnock spent the summer launching Silver Milk Productions, which will develop narrative and documentary projects for film and TV. He said he and his partners have acquired more material recently and are currently developing four or five projects.

When it comes to diving back into active production, Pinnock encourages others in the industry to have patience and understanding for the new protocols.

“There’s no getting around it, there’s no shortcuts, because the moment you take shortcuts is the moment you put everybody at risk,” he said. “It is going to be different. It is a shock to the system to begin with. But you get used to it very, very quickly — it’s not as bad as everybody may anticipate. It certainly wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. You just have to be patient and understand that there is now a new sheriff in town called COVID, and we have to adhere to what it needs.”