The first episode of “These Days,” about life and love in COVID times, was shot during the pandemic and features a delightful “hand dance” from star Marianne Rendon that uses the Zoom screen to incredibly creative effect. But what was more astonishing, is that William Jackson Harper had never seen her routine when they first performed it on camera.
Rendon’s dance has her moving her body and hands within the frame of the web camera and even writing a quick note upside down so that Harper on the other side of the Zoom call could actually read it.
“It took a while to really nail it and it took a lot of tries with Adam of how we wanted to frame it exactly,” Rendon said as part of TheWrap’s Sundance Studio presented by NFP and National Geographic. “But probably the best part about it was we didn’t show Will what it would look like, so we got his actual first reaction to the whole thing. It was priceless.”
“Yo, this is actually, this really works! This is impressive,” Harper remembered saying when he first witnessed it live. “Like, whenever anyone can write upside down is really impressive. Like if someone can recite the alphabet backward I’m like, ‘Yo! You’re gifted.’ The fact that it was so whimsical and funny without being corny, I was just really impressed. Wow, this didn’t go off the rails at all. This was amazing.”
“These Days” is a pilot episode of a series that aims to explore the feelings people had in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and how people tried to still make connections and find romance even when they were quarantined. Rendon plays an out-of-work dancer who performs for Harper’s journalist character, and director Adam Brooks says the scene was actually inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s iconic can-can with bread rolls from “The Gold Rush.” He said the scene was “really emblematic” of the freedom the team had when shooting this project across time zones and with makeshift equipment.
“We were free to make mistakes and go back and try again or find different ways of really doing it,” Brooks said. “We weren’t working with a network or a studio, so the thing just advanced in its own way with these ideas, and there was the room for that to happen as we worked with each other. It was a very intimate feeling.”
Check out the full interview with the stars, director and producer of “These Days” above.