This was because, as co-creator and star Rob McElhenney put it during a virtual Television Critics Assn. press tour panel for the show on Friday, he “did not want to be known as the person who got F. Murray Abraham very, very ill.”
“When we first set out to go back to work we wanted to be as careful as we could possibly be, recognizing all of the variables,” he explained. “And one of the things that was very clear at the time and continues to be is that people who are of a certain age or over are at greater risk.”
The second season of “Mythic Quest” filmed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and did see a number of cases of the virus on its set. Initially when the team first decided they were going to resume filming under new health and safety guidelines, McElhenney recalled talking to Abraham about finding a creative way to keep him off set.
McElhenney said that Abraham didn’t want to sit things out, but “respectfully,” McElhenney disagreed. The first bath of episodes, therefore, see Abraham’s character, C.W. Longbottom, still working remotely, although the rest of the office has gone back to in-person work in a post-pandemic world.
“After [Episode] 207 he does come back in person, but when he does it’s with very small amounts of people on camera,” said McElhenney.
“It gave them an opportunity to laugh at my incompetence with computers, let’s not forget that,” added Abraham.
McElhenney also addressed the COVID outbreak on the set of the second season, clarifying that they did have a contact outbreak, but that it was not in Zone A, the zone in which the actors are, but rather in “Zone B or Zone C” and that it came during construction of a set.
“We knew that nothing is 100% safe and if we were going to make the decision to go back to work, we knew we could do the best we could do,” McElhenney said. “Unfortunately certain things are just uncontrollable — especially if you’re finding you can’t police everybody all of the time. And 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 we have a way that we’re used to working and that people fall back into those ways, regardless of how many times they’re reminded or we’re all reminded.”
Once they realized they had a case on set, he said they “immediately shut down for two weeks,” and he was happy to report that everyone who contracted COVID has made a “full recovery.”
“A lot of this was really unfortunate and we were really doing our best,” he said.
In addition to keeping Abraham off set for much of the season, new safety precautions McElhenney said “Mythic Quest” had in place included COVID testing “as many times as five days a week,” contract-tracing, wearing PPE and having cast members eat their meals in isolated pods. Abraham added that he was tested every day, even when he was just waiting at his hotel. He called the attention to his health and safety “very reassuring.”
Late last year, McElhenney wrote a letter addressing the health and safety standards on set, in which he said they had been expecting an outbreak” for weeks” because “the numbers in the county are spiking and consequently our numbers are doing the same.” At that time, he said there was zero evidence of “any transmission at work” and called the set “one of the safest places you can be outside of your homes.”
The cast and crew consisted of “Mythic Quest” Season 2 approximately 200 people and McElhenney said he believed there was an eight-week period “in which there was no transmission whatsoever and we only had one or two positive cases and they were immediately sequestered and sent home.”