WARNING: This post contains spoilers for “Mythic Quest: Quarantine.”
The “Quarantine” episode of “Mythic Quest,” which airs on Friday night on AppleTV+, was a complicated production that required actors to shoot themselves on special iPhones that were sanitized, loaded with the right software and lenses, dropped off at their houses and then picked up and replaced by new ones. The entire episode takes place on computer screens, and it builds to a sequence that the show’s creator and star, Rob McElhenney, told TheWrap was “probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever been a part of, in terms of production.”
That sequence — and this is a mild spoiler, so you might want to watch the episode before going further — is a virtual Rube Goldberg-style creation that makes use of toilet paper, books, a slinky, wooden spoons, plastic cups, various balls, blocks, dominoes and a bag of chips, among many other things. The action flows between 16 different Zoom windows, each manned by a different member of the cast.
McElhenney explained how they accomplished it in an interview for an upcoming issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
“I called our production designer, Val (Valdar Wilt), and said, ‘Look, this is what we’re thinking of doing,'” he said. “‘Do you think you can pull it off?” And he said yes. I don’t think he believed it and I don’t know that I believed it, but he was going to try.”
They consulted with the series’ special effects coordinator, Jonathan Kombrin, to figure out which household objects could be turned into Rube Goldberg-style “machines,” in which each action triggers another. “I worked in conjunction with them to figure out which machines we would like to use, what would be the coolest ones to use,” he said.
“Jonathan built these machines and then he would sterilize them, pack them up, they would be picked up and sent to the actors. The actors would then reassemble them in their homes with directions that Jonathan and Val had put out for them. And then obviously they were available on Zoom or by telephone. And the actors would have to set them up themselves — so the actors not only acted in the scene, they shot themselves, they slated themselves and then they also operated these Rube Goldberg machines.”
Before shooting the episode, he added, he’d heard that “Parks and Recreation” was doing its own quarantine episode. “That terrified me,” he said, “because first of all, I love ‘Parks and Rec,’ and Mike Schur is one of the greatest showrunners working in the business. And so I called him and I said, ‘Hey, I just want to get our ducks in a row and make sure we’re not ripping you off.’ We just talked a little bit about storyline just to make sure that we weren’t doing that.
“And then over the course of the conversation I said, ‘Hey, do you have any advice or tips?’ And he said, ‘Don’t do it.’
“I said, ‘Well, we’re already down the road.’ He said, ‘It’s really, really hard.’ And he was right.”