The Austin Chronicle

Pandemic Production, One Year Later: Karen Wacker, Producer, Mare of Easttown

Then: “It’s not fun telling a whole bunch of people that they’re not going to be working for a long time.”
Now: “It kind of made me love my job again.”

By Sofia Tafich, July 9, 2021, Screens

There were 52 days of filming left on HBO's Mare of Easttown when production shut down due to COVID-19. That was in April 2020, but it was not until the end of July that producer Karen Wacker got back to Philadelphia to resume filming and finish the show.

"We figured it out together," Wacker said. "We had maybe six weeks of prep, but we all got together as a group and came up with a system that everyone felt safe with in order to return. Everyone's job duties changed and adapted to the way that we felt like we could be successful while keeping everybody healthy and safe."

She found it strange not being able to see everybody's faces. "It's an additional layer between you and the person that you're dealing with," Wacker said. "I think it's really weird adding that layer of not being able to shake each other's hands, or welcome each other back with a hug, which is something that we would do – like you would any family member. It was another way to work together but we figured it out and got it done."

Filming for Mare of Easttown ended in December, and episodes started airing in April and concluded in May of this year to critical acclaim. That's a bonus on top of simply getting the show down in a pandemic. "It was really impressive – everybody's commitment to be successful and to help each other stay healthy," Wacker said. "We stepped into such an unknown and uncomfortable place and we worked together and made it happen. ... There were 450 of us on that show and we did it – and I've never been so proud of everybody that I've ever worked with in my entire life."

Wacker added, "It kind of made me love my job again."

Right after production on Mare of Easttown wrapped, Wacker got on a plane to London for another show, and she'll be there until 2022. Film and TV productions resumed in the UK last fall, so Wacker's crew was already familiar with COVID-19's "new normal" shooting protocols and practices, but the American producer faced a learning curve. "It's different here in a way where the vaccinations are a different rollout than in the U.S." When she arrived, London was in full lockdown, and people were only allowed to have one hour of exercise outside. "Since I was reporting for work, I was able to come into the office and go home, but besides that, I did not leave my apartment." Lockdown restrictions have loosened recently, "and I'm finally able to explore where I'm working at – five months later after being here, but we're getting it done here too, successfully."

Read our original 2020 interview with Karen Wacker here.

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