‘Love in the Time of Corona’ is ‘time capsule’ of the times

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From grappling with big life decisions to a marriage on the brink, a new four-part miniseries tackles relationship struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leslie Odom Jr. and Nicolette Robinson, who are married in real life, co-star and executive produce “Love in the Time of Corona,” which airs this weekend. The title is a take on the 1986 novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

Filming took place in the actors’ actual homes, and co-stars are either related or close friends. Cameras were operated remotely, and the cast did their own hair and makeup.

The safety precautions alone weren’t enough for Odom and Robinson to want to take the project on. They have a toddler so turning their home into a set needed to be worth it.

“What we didn’t want to do is just tell a story about a couple that was trying to have a baby. It’s they’re trying to have a baby in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement and how that is affecting their relationship,” said Odom.

Another actor couple, Gil Bellows and Rya Kihlstedt, play a secretly separated husband and wife forced to quarantine together when their adult daughter (portrayed by their daughter, Ava Bellows) moves back home.

“We were the first family and first house to film so we were truly the guinea pigs,” Kihlstedt said. “We were stop No. 1. But it was amazing. It was like a little indie film and everybody does whatever job there is that needs doing. I love that.”

L. Scott Caldwell plays out the challenges of a woman physically separated from her husband because he’s in a nursing home, which elevates the safety precautions.

“No one could come into my house. Any air that I breathe could not be breathed by someone on the very, very, very small crew. So if somebody had to come in to make an adjustment, I had to leave and then come back in,” Caldwell said. “After a while, you just sort of forgot that you were doing anything unnatural.”

Tommy Dorfman plays a non-binary stylist alongside Rainey Qualley’s aspiring musician. They’re close friends and sometimes more — and during the pandemic they start to realize how their codependency isn’t healthy. Dorfman says having the crew at a distance actually made things go quicker.

“We weren’t getting touched all the time and adjusted all the time, and we didn’t have time to take a lot of breaks between scenes. We were moving at a really fun pace, and it just allowed us to play and be in the moment,” said Dorfman.

As Hollywood plots out ways to resume working in the U.S., Bellows hopes the miniseries serves as an example of how it can be done.

“We have a time capsule miniseries of being some of the first people on the planet to execute a story in this time. And I think that’s great,” Bellows said. “My hope is it’s not the way we have to do everything for much longer. But I think it’s an important little piece of history, not only for audiences but also for other filmmakers to look at and see, ‘OK. These are ways we can overcome the challenges that we’re facing in order to tell the stories we want to tell.'”

“Love in the Time of Corona” debuts its first two episodes Saturday on Freeform, with the second two airing Sunday. The episodes will drop on Hulu the next day.