If Covid-19 hadn’t stepped in, “Kevin” would have started filming in March 2020, with Lynn Shelton directing. Instead, production stopped. Then something much worse happened. Shelton, a beloved independent television and film director, passed away suddenly in May. The pandemic, Armstrong said, gave everyone time to grieve and ensure that the tone Shelton had already set – one of commitment and kindness – would continue. (Keen-eyed viewers will notice Kevin and Allison live on Shelton Street, a tribute.)
Production began last fall, on location in Massachusetts. Some days the crew would shoot multicam scenes, going through twenty pages of dialogue. In an effort to create a pandemic-compliant studio audience, the production hired a dozen people to sit – in masks and socially distant – watching a live stream and laughing. At least in theory.
“This is Boston,” Armstrong said. “Just because we paid them to laugh doesn’t mean they always laughed. “
On the single camera days, when the five-page completion was cause for celebration, the professional laughter stayed at home. The acting has become more subtle, more naturalistic. “If you were to do the same with your face and body in one camera, it would definitely sound crazy,” Murphy said.
The costumes haven’t changed between the formats, and neither have the sets, for the most part. But the world is different as seen through one lens, and people are also different. At first, Murphy and Mary Hollis Inboden, who plays Allison’s neighbor Patty, appreciated the low-end jeans and the complete lack of glamor. Then they saw how single camera shots found all the tears, pores, and wrinkles, revealing what the bright lights of the multicam were hiding.
“When you go out in the sunlight, you can see all of these errors,” Inboden said.
She used to cheer Murphy up by telling him that they were very brave. “She was like, ‘You know what, bravery takes you? Price, ”recalls Murphy.