Safe and sound stage

National Post (National Edition) - - ARTS & LIFE - ANGELIQUE JACK­SON

LOS AN­GE­LES • Tyler Perry wants you to wear your mask.

After suc­cess­fully com­plet­ing pro­duc­tion on his BET se­ries Sis­tas with­out a sin­gle case of COVID-19 dur­ing the two-week shoot, work on The Oval is up next, with cast and se­lect crew be­gin­ning to ar­rive at Tyler Perry Stu­dios for their stint in “Camp Quar­an­tine” re­cently.

And Perry says there’s not much he plans to do differentl­y this time around, es­pe­cially when it comes to hav­ing ev­ery­one wear masks both on-set and around the 330-acre cam­pus.

“I made sure that the cast and crew and ev­ery­body wore their masks when they weren’t on set be­cause I do know for a fact that masks help stop the spread — sci­en­tif­i­cally, I know that,” Perry says. “And ev­ery­body ad­hered to that, even though we were all test­ing neg­a­tive. I just didn’t want some­one to be in­cu­bat­ing with for three to 12 days, and we not know it.”Perry and the Sis­tas crew wore their masks be­tween 12 and 14 hours while shooting the 22-episode season, with an hour and a half lunch break as a chance to catch their breath.

“Lis­ten, I was the mask po­lice. Ev­ery time I saw some­thing, I was scream­ing about it,” Perry says. “It’s sum­mer in Ge­or­gia so credit to the crew — it’s burn­ing up here and they were still do­ing the right thing. So, I gave a lot more breaks for peo­ple to have wa­ter be­cause we had a cou­ple peo­ple that got de­hy­drated from all the heat, and the wa­ter breaks were ac­tu­ally the ‘breath break’ where you can pull your mask down, drink some wa­ter and get some fresh air.”

To per­fect their method of work­ing in the quar­an­tine bub­ble, Perry’s team worked with Emory Univer­sity’s Dr. Car­los del Rio, Dr. San­jay Gupta and Dr. Colleen Kraft to ex­e­cute a rig­or­ous test­ing sched­ule with a nasal swab test ad­min­is­tered upon ar­rival at Tyler Perry Stu­dios and fol­low up ton­sil tests ev­ery four days on site.

After the first 160 cast and crew moved into Tyler Perry Stu­dios, two peo­ple tested pos­i­tive dur­ing the ini­tial se­ques­ter­ing pe­riod. When the next 200 peo­ple ar­rived a few days later, two more peo­ple tested pos­i­tive dur­ing their ini­tial test. Those four never worked on set and were sent to get med­i­cal attention.

“I felt this wave of re­lief after the last test re­sults, where ev­ery­body was neg­a­tive, I was like, ‘OK, we pulled it off,’ so I’m so proud of my crew,” Perry says.

Though Perry took ex­tra care to ad­dress COVID-19 be­hind the scenes, he says that his shows will not ref­er­ence the pan­demic in any up­com­ing sto­ry­lines.

“All these scripts were fin­ished right at the time that COVID started to show up,” Perry ex­plains. “And also, what I know about COVID is peo­ple are tired of hear­ing of it, and en­ter­tain­ment is escape ... All of my work has been about es­capism, so I’m just go­ing to hold to es­capism.”

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