Home and Away lockdown lessons for other soaps

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Getty Images

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Filming in easier times back in 2016

In the small Yorkshire village of Emmerdale, they’re limiting things to two characters at a time.

Residents on Albert Square in London’s East End are about to go quiet but they’ll be back.

On a cobbled street in Weatherfield in Greater Manchester, life is going back to normal. However, there’s no kissing and older people are only seen on Zoom.

In Summer Bay, north of Sydney, they actually are kissing but only at a distance.

If you’ve not worked out what’s going on here, this might not be the article for you.

Australian soap Home and Away has just finished its third week of filming after a nine week halt because of coronavirus.

Stars and writers say they’re already learning lots about their new way of working which could help the UK productions which are just getting back to work.

For Georgie Parker, who plays Roo Stewart, it’s been a learning curve. “I had to kiss someone!”

“I shared a kiss with someone and it wasn’t my father.”

Quick fact check if you’ve not seen Home And Away for ages: Roo Stewart is Alf Stewart’s daughter.

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Endemol Shine

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Georgie says the make-up area now smells ‘like you’re in hospital’

Yep. Alf is still in it. In fact, he’s just remarried Roo’s mum who faked her own death 30 years ago. It feels like a pandemic might be the least of Alf’s worries.

Georgie goes on: “That was tricky and we had to do some old school tricks. We couldn’t get anywhere near each other so it was pretty funny.”

Lucy Addario, the series producer, adds: “When we stopped, it was such an unknown, we hoped we wouldn’t be down for a long time.”

There are basic changes for actors and crew at the Sydney studios including temperature checks when they arrive, health and safety officers on set and make-up artists wearing face masks and gloves. The stars can do their own hair and make-up if they prefer.

Georgie says getting ready to go on set is working well: “You walk in and it smells like you’re going into a hospital. Everything is sterilised, everything is bleached and everything is cleaned.

“It’s pretty quick and efficient now. This is how we’re used to doing it.”

Australia’s Channel 7 films Home And Away months in advance – with broadcasts on Channel 5 in the UK a few weeks behind what Aussie viewers see.

It means it’ll be a while before we get to see their new way of working – and even longer before we see the famous beach again.

“To be honest we actually haven’t been back to Palm Beach yet, there’s still some restrictions on the amount of people in public places,” explains Lucy.

“I guess being outdoors helps, I guess it’s more natural to spread out.”

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PA

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Stacey Dooley will host a new EastEnders spin-off show when the soap goes off-air

Social distancing and location changes have meant some hastily re-written storylines too but Lucy thinks that actually made things better.

“When we stopped we were in the middle of awesome stories. We just wanted to be true to them and tell them still, but we just had to look at how we can tell them differently.

“There was one which we rewrote and I thought afterwards that it’s so much better.

“It’s to do with two of our young couples. We had to change the destination, The way the writers adapted it I thought ‘wow’ and it was so much better. I had more of an emotional reaction to it.”

In the UK, the episodes of Eastenders filmed before lockdown will end next week (Tuesday) and aren’t expected to return before the end of July. They’ll be replaced with spin-off shows and classic editions.

Emmerdale is broadcasting a series of weekly specials until regular filming is ready to be shown. Each episode features just two characters.

Coronation Street actors got back to work this week. ITV has been showing three episodes a week since March. It usually broadcasts six.

One thing Home And Away fans won’t be getting though – coronavirus storylines.

Lucy says: “We did think about it but we really know that people love to come to Summer Bay to escape.

“By the time the episodes we shoot get shown, if we are doing covid stories, it’ll be the last thing people want.”

Georgie adds: “Who wants to see covid on a beach?”

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