EXCLUSIVE: Tyler Perry was one of the first Hollywood producers to come up with a comprehensive plan how to safely restart TV production. He is now the first to set start dates for U.S. shows filming in North America. On July 8, Perry’s two BET series, Sistas and The Oval, will begin production — one at a time — at his Atlanta-based Tyler Perry Studios.
Sistas will go first on July 8, followed by The Oval on July 28. Both will be filming their second seasons which have been picked up by BET after highly rated freshman runs. Both shows film a 22-episode season in two-and-a-half weeks.
While a July restart of production had been wishful best-case scenario for most US TV studios, they have been looking at late August, September and even October as more realistic target dates.
Filming of Sistas and The Oval will be following the plan outlined by Perry in a Deadline interview last month. It employs a strict protocol that involves testing and sequestering the shows’ cast and crew on the sprawling, 330-acre lot of Tyler Perry Studios.
As Perry told Deadline, he has been in communication with the heads of the leading Hollywood unions which have been working together to set guidelines for production in the era of COVID-19. Perry’s rules for safe production are expected to go above and beyond the unions’ recommendations, which will be released in the coming weeks. They also are said to be in compliance with federal and local government regulations.
In his interview with Deadline, Perry was adamant that he would only start production if every cast member was comfortable going back. I hear Perry, who is the creator, writer, director and executive producer on all of his series, held zoom calls with the casts of his shows to lay out his production plans. The casts of both shows got on board, paving the way to the July 8 start date.
The crew of Perry’s shows is primarily local, based in Atlanta. For the casts, Perry is providing his private plane. After they test negative pre-boarding, they will be flown from Los Angeles and New York to Atlanta.
Everyone, including Perry, who is directing all episodes, will remain on the lot for the entire duration of the shoot. The existing structures on the lot, which once housed a military base, will provide enough housing for everyone working on each of the shows, so there will be no need for portable housing as originally thought.
Upon arrival, everyone will be tested and quarantined in their rooms for four hours while they wait for the results. The cast and crew will be tested 4 times over the 2.5 weeks of the shoot, with Carlos Del Rio, professor at Emory Vaccine Center, serving as testing consultant.
While Perry’s fast way of production is pretty unique, Sistas and The Oval will provide a blueprint for other studios as the first primetime live-action series to get the cameras rolling in the U.S. while Hollywood is plotting a safe way out of the current coronavirus-related shutdown.
Both The Oval and Sistas have seen strong ratings growth in their first seasons. The Oval hit a series high in its January 22 midseason finale in Live+3, drawing 1.7 million total viewers on BET alone. After a break, the series returned last week to a solid 1.5 million total viewers (simulcast across BET and BET Her), and 1.4 M on BET alone. Sistas wrapped its first season on April 29 with 1.6 Million viewers total in the simulcast across BET and BET Her.