“My cell phone doesn’t really work well out here,” Samantha Bee told Vanity Fair on Wednesday, explaining why she was on a landline handset that crackled every time she stepped too far from its base. She was speaking from the upstate New York property where she, husband Jason Jones, and their three children have improbably now filmed two episodes of her TBS late-night show Full Frontal With Samantha Bee in the backyard. (The second episode airs Wednesday night.) It’s TV production in the time of coronavirus pandemic. Said Bee, “It’s not ideal.”
“I mean, yesterday we had to hold shooting because someone was chainsawing logs in their backyard,” said Bee. “They definitely had felled a tree and were chopping it into, like, carrot coins. It was like they were operating a wood chipper back there.”
Bee normally has as many as 70 staffers helping her tape an episode. But these days, she’s working with her skeleton crew of five—with Jones, who is an executive producer on the show, filming from a phone, and her kids manning the equipment. Her kids’ compensation is…still being negotiated.
“My children definitely feel that they should be paid,” said Bee. “That’s a debate that’s raging in our household. And I don’t disagree. We have informed them that once normal life is restored in some capacity, we will buy them a present.”
In the meantime, Bee is doing her own hair, makeup, and wardrobe—and personally uploading the footage to send her staff once backyard filming wraps. “I’m definitely like, ‘Hey, kids, get off the internet. I have to upload massive files to people’s apartments in Brooklyn.’”
Filming outside is a somewhat risky endeavor, and Bee and Jones are trying to plan for unexpected weather patterns that could curtail production.
“We’re figuring out a plan for if it rains, because we want to be as in-the-moment as possible,” said Bee, explaining that she wouldn’t want to tape two days ahead of airing given the timeliness of her show’s subject matter. “We are now trying to figure out how we would do the show in a storm…. I’m also really praying for spring weather. Our backdrop will just look so much prettier when the trees start to come out, when there’s more greenery back there. Right now, it really does look like The Blair Witch Project.”
As strange as the experience of filming a late-night show at home is, Bee said that it has been fulfilling for her and Jones, who previously collaborated as correspondents on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and as costars on multiple films.
“It’s a very interesting experience, as a couple and as constant collaborators,” said Bee. “Jason and I are having a good time working together, and figuring it out. He’s so good at just figuring out how to make a shot beautiful with very little. He really has an eye for it, and thank God. And we speak each other’s language, so we move quickly through it.”
When she isn’t filming, Bee has actually been trying to stay out of the news stream. “I can’t watch every presidential press conference because they are just pushing me into full derangement,” she said. “I feel the leadership vacuum, and it is critical. Boy, I will take inspiration from almost anybody now. I just need a person to stand on TV, and issue forthright words. I need it like I need oxygen. We all need it.”
Full Frontal has had to adapt so fast—just three weeks ago Bee was filming her last in-studio episode—that she is still, like the rest of the world, trying to adjust to the new normal.
Originally posted 2020-04-01 19:10:05.