NBC’s “Connecting…” joins the growing genre of pandemic shows, made by and for the current era of COVID.
Premiering Thursday (Oct. 8) at 8 p.m. and created by Martin Gero (“Blindspot,”) the ensemble comedy — filmed in August and September — follows a group of LA-based friends staying connected via video conferencing as they share each other’s troubles, trade advice and try to navigate the challenges of social distancing.
“It’s very real, and although I’m not exactly my character, it feels very close,” says Otmara Marrero, who plays Annie. “It’s not like I have to do a lot of the usual internal digging and deep-diving into a character. It feels like we can all be very candid — in a sense, we’re almost not acting.”
In addition to pink-haired Anne, the group includes stressed parent Pradeep (Parvesh Cheena); transgender sports fan Ellis (Shakina Nayfack, “Transparent”); recently-single Ben (comedian Preacher Lawson); paranoid conspiracy theorist Rufus (Ely Henry); and cheerful married couple Michelle and Garret (Jill Knox and Keith Powell).
Annie’s main plot is a love story; she has a crush on Ben, and is trying to figure out how to ask him to move in with her so they can quarantine together.
“[The show is] all about that friend group, their highs and lows, but there’s definitely that love story at the core of it with one of her best friends, Ben,” says Marrero. “It’s that friend where you always cross the line a little bit, teetering between friend and romantic love, and he kind of always misses the hint and gets in [another] relationship. She’s not waiting around for him, but she happens to be available every time he is.”
The show was filmed in each cast member’s house, creating an unusual situation with Otmara acting as her own crew.
“We did everything ourselves,” she says. “I actually haven’t met any of my castmates or my directors or creators. We’ve all done this remotely. They sent us a lot of gear and boxes and set decorations, computers, iPads, tripods, lighting. We did [our own] hair, makeup, lighting, setting up shots, moving things around in the house, decorating, props. It’s a lot to think about.
“It feels like acting is an afterthought — which is very weird because that’s always at the forefront for an actor.”
Marrero will soon meer her castmates in person for the first time at a socially distanced celebration of the show’s premiere.
“We’re having a little screening at a drive-in, a cast and crew thing, and we are all going to go to one of our castmate’s houses,” she says. “They have a really big backyard so we’ll do a little socially distanced hang for the first time ever. I’m so excited because I know them, we’re on a group chat…But there’s nothing like that real-life camaraderie and connection and listening to a person laugh or talk or the small nuances of a real-life human… that you don’t completely get on the Internet.”