- Ava DuVernay revealed to Insider the steps being taken to currently make season 5 of her family drama, "Queen Sugar."
- The OWN series has bought out a entire hotel in New Orleans to create a "bubble" during production.
- Cast and key crew are staying in the 36-room hotel where they're only allowed to leave when it's time to be driven to set. They can't even buy groceries or walk their pets.
- "We will get back to how we were [before COVID-19], but we're making plans so we're acting as if we don't go back to how we were," DuVernay told Insider. "That's how we create a new normal safely."
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Hollywood is steadily trying to figure out the best way to create movies and TV shows in the COVID-19 era. Ava DuVernay revealed for her series, "Queen Sugar," the production has bought out a hotel in New Orleans to create a bubble for cast and crew while shooting season 5 of the OWN show.
"We will put the show aside if we can't keep people safe," DuVernay told Insider Wednesday while promoting "New Realities," a series of first-person VR documentaries made by women across the world in which her grassroots distribution company, Array, is involved.
"We will get back to how we were [before COVID-19], but we're making plans. So we're acting as if we don't go back to how we were. That's how we create a new normal safely," she added.
To create that new normal, DuVernay said "Queen Sugar" producers bought out a 36-room boutique hotel in New Orleans where the cast and key crew are currently staying while filming. The only time they are allowed to leave the hotel is to get in a car that takes them directly to set.
"This hotel was just about to open in New Orleans, this boutique hotel with two floors, and then this all happened and it never opened," DuVernay said. "They were going to have to give up the hotel. So we came in and we bought it out for the rest of the year."
DuVernay said no one at the hotel is allowed to leave the property even to walk their pets or buy groceries. Instead, people, who are also staying on the premises, make food for the cast and crew. It's not all bad: There's a rooftop especially used to exercise or get fresh air.
When it's time to work, they get into a car, driven by a driver also living in the bubble, and are driven to set.
DuVernay said everyone on set is tested using rapid COVID-19 tests twice a day, are working socially distanced, and are wearing personal protective equipment if they are not on camera. Already in the second week of shooting, so far no one has tested positive for COVID-19.
"We're not playing any games here," she added.
OWN's "Queen Sugar," which is based on the 2014 Natalie Baszile novel of the same name, follows the lives of three siblings in rural Louisiana, who inherited their departed father's sugarcane farm.
Due to COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, DuVernay, the creator of the show, and showrunner Anthony Sparks, have revamped the 10-episode season and are coming up with new character arcs and storylines that tackle those topics.
Because of that, DuVernay is back in Los Angeles in the writer's room, sending pages to the bubble in New Orleans every night.
"Zoom and FaceTime are our best friends," DuVernay said about communicating with the bubble. "All the tools we use to see each other have been key."
Season 5 of "Queen Sugar" is set to premiere on OWN in 2021.
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