LOS ANGELES – For Bette Midler and Sarah Paulson, making HBO's “Coastal Elites” in pandemic-forced isolation proved an unsettling challenge.
“It was just bizarre, completely bizarre, because it leads you ... down all these rabbit holes of ‘What’s next? I mean, what else could happen to me?’” Midler said during an online news conference Wednesday about the social satire. It debuts Sept. 12.
For Midler, the unusual working conditions reinforced how hard the pandemic has slammed the entertainment industry. Most TV and film production came to a standstill in March and is trying to recover, including with socially distanced approaches to taping.
“People used to say that showbiz was depression-proof,” Midler said, with moviegoers keeping it afloat during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Turns out it’s not, she said, and “now we discovered that we’re all out of work!”
“Coastal Elites,” a series of monologues written by Paul Rudnick (“Sister Act”) and directed by Jay Roach (“Bombshell”), also stars Issa Rae, Dan Levy and Kaitlyn Dever. Crews taped the cast at home in early summer under quarantine guidelines aimed at controlling the coronavirus.
The work, originally conceived for New York's Public Theater, offers “contemporary stories of characters breaking down and breaking through as they grapple with politics, culture, and the pandemic,” HBO said in a release.
Midler said she welcomed the chance to take part in the project but couldn’t ignore the oddity of making it. Paulson agreed.
The connection actors share on a set is what “I’m usually the most interested in and inspired by,” Paulson said. The timing also proved affecting.