New York City Actor Experiences Life on Set in the Pandemic

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October 19, 2020

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Actor Derek Roberts [Credit: JJ Ignotz Photography]

(NEW YORK) —Before COVID-19, the life of an actor on set was pretty normal. After the pandemic occurred in March, the industry changed. Auditions stopped, and productions began to shut down. Derek Roberts is a SAG-AFTRA actor who has worked on many productions like Zoo, Behind the Movement, and Scream on MTV. Roberts’ goal is to change the way minorities, African-Americans in particular, are viewed on camera. 

“I think that the wave is already happening. I don’t want to continue the stereotype. For example, if I have a role to be a thug, the first thing I do is put a do-rag or wave cap on. But why would I do that? A wave cap is for my hair texture – to keep it waved down. I don’t think there should be such a thing as a black doctor or black priest,” he said. He continues to go against the stereotype by booking complex characters. 

Being on set before the virus was a pretty normal experience. Usually, a person can run back to their trailer on set, talk to the cast members, and network. Now, only a few actors are transported to the trailer from set at a time. When production started back up in August, people had to wear masks, face shields, and social distance. 

“I had to take the COVID-19 test on set, along with the directors, crew members, and security. We had to take a test every day until we left production. They put the swab up the nose, and your eyes are immediately watering. It’s a burn tickle that goes away after about a minute or two. This test is done every day of the week and twice on Sunday. You never get used to the COVID test,” he said. 

Roberts believes that Blum House Productions did a great job with following COVID-19 guidelines. The film is produced by the master of horror Jason Blum, the producer for films like “Get Out” and “Us”. His new film, Welcome to BlumHouse, now streaming on Amazon Prime, is a horror anthology that has eight separate movies. Roberts will be in the seventh or eighth, set to be released in October 2021. COVID-19 guidelines were being used on set.

“The chairs are six feet apart and there were five of us on set. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was on until shooting. The actors who were filming were the only ones without masks for the scene. There were designated areas where talent would put their PPE on, and the crew would give us hand sanitizer, he said.” 

Roberts believes that as long as productions follow the COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement by SAG-AFTRA filming can be safer.

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