07 February 2021 Posted By : Victoria Ahearn

'It was nail-biting but we did it': Canadian shows didn't let COVID-19 derail production

TORONTO -- The pandemic has its prints all over Canada's winter TV season.

While some shows affected by lockdowns last March were able to resume production in the summer and air in the fall, many were held up by restrictions, a lack of COVID-19 insurance, and the development of expensive health and safety protocols with officials and unions.

The result is a January and February slate packed with new programming shot over the past few months with much testing, distancing, sanitization and personal protective equipment.

The Canadian Press spoke with talent behind some Canadian shows about production challenges, and how positive cases were dealt with on set.

“KIM'S CONVENIENCE” ON SHOOTING UNDER DURESS

Star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays patriarch Appa on the family sitcom, says the pandemic pushed the start of production on the new season in Toronto from last May to September.

Writers modified some storylines and used fewer guest actors, while the whole team was “fastidious” about their COVID protocols.

Away from the set, everyone limited their contact to those in their immediate household, realizing that “like dominoes, if one goes, everything sort of goes.”

“Mission accomplished,” Lee says. “We shot season five under duress, the worst circumstances, but we didn't have one case, knock on wood.”

Simu Liu, who plays Appa's son Jung, was in Australia shooting Marvel's upcoming film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” when the pandemic hit and couldn't get back to Toronto to shoot “Kim's Convenience” until near the end of production.

The protocols made the shooting process “very piecemeal” and put pressure on the cast to “nail a scene and move on” so they could stay on schedule, Lee says.

“Otherwise, it's like a big train wreck: one delay at the beginning makes it a mess at the end. So that was really difficult to do.”

Lee cites a host of other challenges, including the safety risk of acting without a mask, and not being able to communicate as well while wearing PPE during rehearsals.

But he was happy to be working and it all made him “appreciate that much more the professionalism and the quality of the crews.”

“Every step of the way, I felt safe,” Lee says. “Personally, I felt safer on set than anywhere else outside of my home.”

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