As productions continue to move forward with restarting, there’s a big learning curve as to what filming looks like in our current COVID-19 times. Actor Virginia Tucker is known for her work on series like Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders and Code Black; she’s no stranger to being on pre-pandemic sets. But after booking a role on IMDb TV’s Leverage 2.0 reboot series, Tucker was able to experience filming in our “new normal.” The actor virtually sat down with Casting Networks to share her take on getting back on set in the Southeast production hub of New Orleans, with all the safety protocols in place.
What can you tell us about your most recent on-set experience?
I’ll start by saying that I booked it with a self-tape audition, which I’ve learned to love because I get to use my own process for them. It was really exciting to book it because my family is from Louisiana, and it was my first time getting to film in the Big Easy. As far as the protocols that were in place, I was really impressed by how production handled everything. It’s a whole other level of planning and scheduling they’re having to do to keep everyone safe on set. It did feel a little disorientating to all of a sudden be around a large group of people after staying at home for six months, but I felt very safe with all the precautions taken. Everyone was tested and masked — actors were literally wearing masks until last looks. They even seemed to be shooting the scenes with the actors a little farther apart from one another than usual. I had to get used to that aspect a little bit, but you can look at somebody across the room and still connect with them. Connection is connection.
That makes sense. Did you feel like any of the protocols ultimately affected your acting technique?
You know, not really. Once you get your COVID-19 test back and you’re cleared, you’re still on set and chatting with people between shots like you normally would. You can still have a conversation with the cinematographer, for example, just like you would in pre-pandemic times. All that to say, the protocols didn’t really affect my technique or performance.
I’m glad to hear it. And I always love to ask actors how they stayed creatively fed when productions were on pause, prior to them restarting. Was there anything in particular for you?
After getting to work with so many talented people and observing them on set, I had been interested in directing for a while. So when things shut down, I used the time to write my own short film called Touched, and then everything just started coming together with the team for it. I have a crew that is 75 percent female, which I’m really excited about because the story is truly for women. And we have an absolutely incredible cast that includes Maddie Nichols, Lo Graham, Alexander Biglane, and Valeska Liner. Making creative decisions and being behind the camera for Touched has been a great experience because I thrive off of switching things up and utilizing a different skill set.
Tucker brought her unique perspective as an actor and a newly-minted filmmaker to her most recent on-set experience. When asked about the overall feeling of being back on set, she summarized it with the word “grateful.” Tucker explained that having now planned a SAG-AFTRA short film that followed COVID-19 safety protocols, she could really appreciate all the work that went into keeping people safe during filming for Leverage 2.0. And she shared one last takeaway. “I think everybody is so starved for connection right now,” Tucker noted. “And everyone’s just so grateful to be working and to be able to shoot.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.