The new season of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit premiered Wednesday night after being delayed nearly two months because of the pandemic.
Production for the show was forced to shut down in March and wasn't allowed to resume until mid-July when the city entered phase four. The original premiere date was set for mid-September.
Like many industries that have had to adapt to new changes, the cast and crew had to adjust to working and filming under COVID-19 safety protocols.
Showrunner Warren Leight told NY1 testing is mandatory for everyone.
"Every actor is tested five times a week and if they’re hired to do the show as a guest actor they start testing five days before they come to work so we have to have that cushion,” said Leight.
“Everyone on set tests at least once or twice a week in addition. The actors are only unmasked in the moments when we’re shooting and the minute we yell cut they mask up, but that does mean they’re unmasked so we went to a system where no one is allowed on set when they’re shooting unless they have a mask, a shield and full PPE,” he continued.
All this takes more time and more money. He said testing alone costs up to $100,000 per episode.
Typically there are eight to 10 rewrites per episode, now they sometimes have 25 different drafts. They've also gone from eight-day shoots to 10-day shoots, and they've had to write differently too because there are fewer locations where they can film.
They're not allowed as many trucks because of outdoor dining, and people don't want film crews in their homes or offices.
Law & Order is such a New York City-centered show. It's not only set in the city, but it also pulls storylines from the headlines.
"We like to be a show about New York. The writing staff is here, the actors are here, it’s a local show so we wanted to reflect what’s gone on in the city in the past eight months and we all know it’s been a convulsive time between COVID, the aftermath of George Floyd, the demonstrations and even the political anxiety of the last few weeks,” said Leight.
This season takes place during the coronavirus pandemic, and the premiere episode is based on the Amy Cooper incident in Central Park, where a white woman calls the cops on a black man and falsely files a police report.