Coronavirus: Shortland Street’s first gay marriage may still be under level 2
While the wedding plans of many Auckland couples will be undone by the new collection restrictions below Alert Level 2, the creators of Shortland Street are relieved to finally be able to move on with their big day.
Everything is going according to plan, with long-running local medical drama slated to film the wedding of nurses Maeve Mullins (played by actress Jess Sayer) and Nicole Miller (Sally Martin) next week, once restrictions level 3 to Auckland will be closed at midnight on Sunday.
This will be the show’s first on-screen same-sex marriage – characters Jack and Matiu got married offscreen this year, while in 2006 characters Maia and Jay had the show’s first civil union.
Over the past two weeks, the soap opera has had to pick up on the on-set social distancing practices that were enforced during the first lockdown, including a reduced crew, no scenes with physical contact, and actors having to wear makeup.
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Producer Oliver Driver said they have postponed filming of the wedding scenes while those restrictions are still in place.
“We’re very happy that it looks like the wedding is taking place at level 2 so makeup artists can do their hair and make-up – it could have been a bit beyond our stars,” he said.
Below level 2 in Auckland, most gatherings, including weddings, are limited to 10 people.
But Driver said they have more flexibility as they follow the guidelines set by ScreenSafe.
“Our wedding is always a working space, it is not a public gathering.”
Brides could even seal their marriage with a kiss – after filling out health declaration forms to make sure they weren’t sick and were comfortable with the contact.
“It’s still the actors’ choice, but it becomes a very clear set of protocols that you have to follow to make sure everyone feels safe doing it.”
Driver said the cast and crew weren’t too baffled by returning to Level 3 as they got used to the demands during the first lockdown.
But this time there had been a few more challenges, such as the requirement for face masks.
“On the set, everyone wears masks and [the actors] remove them to shoot the scenes.
Previously, at level 3, they limited the number of extras to five actors. But this time, due to the increased risk of community transmission of Covid-19, they decided to cut the extras and get their crew members to multitask.
“It’s quite funny to see that in the background, our script supervisors or cast people all dressed up as doctors and nurses in our very empty hospital.”
Driver said they are now working to create a system that allows them to move smoothly between the different levels in the short term, while still being able to air enough episodes for the show to air five nights a week.
“I guess we now think this might be the new normal.”