Amongst a number of productions restarting with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, The Conners has even incorporated our current pandemic times into its latest season. Ken Hodges, known for his work on series like Sorry for Your Loss and Superstore, recently appeared on the Roseanne spin-off series and virtually sat down with Casting Networks to talk about the experience of getting back on set for the first time since the onset of COVID-19. Keep reading for the actor’s perspective on what it’s like to film in our current times, as well as his take on playing a character that reflects them.
What can you tell us about your most recent on-set experience in light of the COVID-19 protocols now in place?
I booked a co-star role on The Conners playing a police officer, and filming my episode was an experience I’ve definitely never had before. I mean, everything’s changed because of COVID-19. For starters, The Conners is a multi-cam comedy, but they obviously no longer have a live audience for tapings. Anyone who’s not in front of the camera has a face shield on, and people are maintaining social distance at all times. Production assistants are no longer entering trailers, and all my paperwork was emailed to me the night before filming so that I could sign it ahead of time. I needed to take a little online class on COVID-19 procedures beforehand, as well. And when you drove up to the lot where the show was filming, they would temperature screen you at your car before even letting you onto the lot.
Did you feel safe with the protocols in place and with how they were implemented?
I felt extremely safe, like I couldn’t catch a damn cold in that place. [Laughs] You know what I mean? It was 100 percent sanitized, and there were little sanitizer bottles placed everywhere, as well, so that people could use them. Crafty had a new way of doing things so that nobody came close or would have to touch anything, and everybody was separated. We got tested for COVID-19 the day before the first day of shooting, and then everyone on the lot was tested daily, too. In a work environment space, I couldn’t imagine it being safer. And my character actually wore a mask the whole time he was onscreen so I was extra safe! [Laughs] But in all seriousness, The Conners is being true to the times, and the episode even opened up with one of the series regulars wearing a mask. They’re incorporating what’s going on in the world into the show, and COVID-19 is definitely going on.
That’s got to be fascinating to get to play a role that reflects in real-time what’s happening in our world. Overall, how would you describe the feeling of being back on set?
It’s something that you don’t realize you miss as much as you do until you’re back. I mean, the first time I’d auditioned since the beginning of February was for this role. Things are starting to ramp up more now, but it had been months since I’d even had the opportunity to audition. And I’m still at a place in my career where I’m working on actively building my resume. So yeah, being back on set felt great, even though it was such a different experience than in the past. For one last example, I think we were the only show shooting on our lot when we filmed the episode. It was completely empty besides us.
From wearing a mask on set to feeling like he was filming in a ghost town, Hodges spoke to various aspects that made his most recent on-set experience different from those in the past. The actor shared during his interview that he’d been staying busy while productions were on pause by writing more of his own projects and working on a short film with a friend. And while Hodges expressed feeling rusty before his return to performing in front of the camera, we think that booking his first audition right out of the gate is a good sign that the actor will have many more opportunities ahead of filming in times of COVID-19.
This interview has been edited and condensed.