Vancouver-Based TV Series Eye Tentative Production Return Dates; Local Talent Poised For Bigger Role Amid Travel Concerns

From left: 'The Good Doctor,' 'A Million Little Things' and 'Supernatural' ABC; The CW

As Hollywood is cautiously charting a path back to TV production, Vancouver may help lead the way.

A number of shows filming up north have set tentative July-August production start dates, I hear. They include ABC’s The Good Doctor and A Million Little Things, the CW’s Supernatural, The Flash, Riverdale and Charmed, and Netflix’s Midnight Mass.

I hear The Good Doctor is eying a late-July Season 4 production start (I’ve heard July 20 and July 30 as possible dates). A Million Little Things is eying an Aug. 10-Aug.  24  Season 3 start. Supernatural has been aiming for an end-of-July start to finish its final season before star Jared Padalecki segues to production on his new CW series, Walker. 

The Good Doctor, AMLT and Supernatural are all on their networks’ fall schedules, with bigger urgency for them to get going though no one is rushing a return to production before safety protocols are agreed upon with the unions and implemented.

Several other Vancouver-based CW series, which are not slated to debut until January,  also are cautiously plotting a return to production. The list includes Riverdale (Season 5) and The Flash (Season 7), which are eying a possible restart in August-September, and Charmed, which is being rumored for a potential Aug. 10 Season 3 start.

Additionally, I hear it has been a priority for Netflix to get production on high-profile new horror series Midnight Mass — originally slated for a spring start — underway in Vancouver. It is now aiming at a new start date in late July- early August, I hear.

Like California, Canada’s British Columbia province, where Vancouver is located, earlier this month lifted restrictions on film and TV production, allowing filming to restart. For U.S. production to resume in full force in either location, the Hollywood studios need to reach an agreement with the guilds and unions on safety protocols. Negotiations between the two sides are currently underway.

While California is in the midst of a spike of new infections, posting multiple record high numbers over the past two weeks, British Columbia has been praised for its handling of the pandemic. The province’s Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was profiled by the New York Times, which called her one of the most effective public health officials in the world for her success in keeping the disease in check in British Columbia without severe restrictions.

In contrast to Canada’s two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, which had been hard hit by the pandemic, British Columbia never faced a major outbreak and has been able to successfully reopen schools, restaurants and hair salons. The province yesterday announced its first COVID-19 death in more than a week.

But B.C. also has remained on high alert, imposing state of emergency very early on, which is yet to be lifted. Canada’s land border with the U.S. continues to be closed, and anyone flying into British Columbia has to self-isolate for 14 days.

I hear the series eying production restart in Vancouver in July-August are planning for self-quarantine upon arrival, with talent asked to arrive two weeks prior to the projected started date in order to comply with the health orders.

But, apart from the mandatory self-isolation, the fact that COVID-19 appears to be largely under control in British Columbia (32 new cases recorded for the last three days combined) should be reassuring for the U.S. series filming there, suggesting possible lower risk of infection and coronavirus-related shutdowns.

That may help alleviate the need of rigorous testing three or more times a week, which has emerged as a sticking point in the studios’ negotiations with the Hollywood unions and guilds on final safety protools.

Meanwhile, the pandemic is expected to create more opportunities for Canadian-based directors and actors.

While most U.S series filming in Vancouver already use predominantly local crews, guest stars and directors — especially for non-CW shows — are often  flown in from the U.S.

With mandatory 14-day self-quarantine and increased potential safety risk for the entire production when someone flies in from a COVID-19 hot spot, which, for example, Los Angeles County is considered at the moment, I hear producers for shows like The Good Doctor and AMLT are focusing on employing predominantly Canadian-based guest actors and episodic directors for the time being.

In the U.S., Atlanta has been leading the charge by reopening early and planning multiple productions to start in the coming weeks, including Tyler Perry’s BET series Sistas and The Oval.

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