Life After Life boss worried he ‘terrified’ cast with restrictions ‘Terror in their face’

Life After Life: Official trailer for new series from BBC

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Filming for the four-part miniseries took place this time last year, while TV and film productions in the UK were still constrained by strict health and safety regulations. While filming for Life After Life mostly went smoothly, some of the BBC drama’s important Covid mandates made director John Crowley’s job rather difficult.

Film and television director John admitted he wasn’t a fan of mask-wearing while shooting Life After Life during Covid restrictions last year.

The UK was still in partial lockdown in the spring of 2021, and TV shoots had to enforce strict rules to ensure the cast and crew were kept safe.

Unfortunately, John found it rather hard to communicate with his cast, which includes Thomasin McKenzie and Sian Clifford, in-between takes.

“We did pretty well,” John confirmed. “We didn’t have to shut down through shooting.”

“But it’s a little bit more cumbersome. Masks are difficult to communicate with.”

Several popular TV dramas were forced to shut down midway through filming last year, having already delayed their production schedule by several months due to the pandemic.

Thankfully, once Thomasin and the rest of the cast made it onto set, the shoot went smoothly and there weren’t any unexpected breaks to wait for someone to recover from a positive Covid case.

However, filming with face-coverings raised a number of issues for John while he was trying to direct his cast between takes, as he explained during a recent Q&A.

He continued: “I found it very hard to give notes with a mask on.

“You go up to an actor with a mask on and you’d see terror in their face. Because you look like an oncologist approaching them, or something.”

The Irish filmmaker is best known for helming the Oscar-nominated film Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson.

He has also directed episodes of the second season of True Detective, and brought Donna Tartt’s bestselling novel The Goldfinch to screens in 2019.

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Life After Life was one of his first projects to film since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and trying to direct with social distancing and masks in place took some getting used to.

“It’s hard to be relaxing on-set when everyone’s got the masks on,” John admitted.

“And social distancing doesn’t work well with film sets.

“So, it made it all a little cumbersome, but we had a great Covid team who really helped us.”

“We found our rhythm really quickly with it. It was already a pretty tight schedule, and then it just became slightly tighter. But we got it done.”

According to co-stars Sian and Thomasin, John didn’t have to worry too much about putting the actors off their performances.

“John’s eyes are deeper than the ocean,” she joked. “So, [it was] never threatening when he approaches.”

Thomasin added: “His eyes are so blue, they’re so sharp, you feel like they’re piercing right into your soul.”

“Not being able to see the bottom half of his face, all you see is those piercing blue eyes, you’re like, ‘Woah!’”

John laughed and added: “There you go, that was the effect of Covid on shooting.”

Fans of Kate Atkinson’s work have been waiting since 2013 to see Life After Life come to screens, so hopefully, the BBC’s star-studded adaptation delivers.

Life After Life premieres Tuesday, April 19 at 9pm on BBC Two and will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

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