As Saturday Night Live prepares for its Season 46 premiere on October 3, things will be very different from the norm. Although the venerated sketch show will return live—a departure from the remotely produced “At Home” editions launched earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic—everything about its production has been overhauled to ensure the safety of its cast and crew.
“We don’t know that we’re going to be able to pull it off,” Lorne Michaels told The New York Times. “We’re going to be as surprised as everyone else when it actually goes on.”
On-site rapid COVID tests are now required before cast and crew enter the building, Michaels told the Times, and the audience will be tested as well. Monday meetings, which once included 40 people, have been winnowed down to three. Larger meetings now take place in a room “the size of an airplane hangar” with everyone distanced and masked. The cast will wear masks until the moment the show goes live.
While Michaels told the Times there are no restrictions on cast members per sketch, he added, “there are restrictions on how many people you can have on the studio floor. So, if a camera’s not in use in that sketch, the operator would leave. When sets have to be changed and the stagehands come in to do it, others will leave. We have a finite number of people and that’s being closely monitored.”
If anyone tests positive, cast and crew will quarantine for two weeks.
And when asked if the show contemplated returning with more remote episodes in lieu of a live show, Michaels answered in the negative. “We just had to go back,” he said. “It’s an election year. It’s what we do... It’s difficult, but we’ve done difficult a lot of times. Comedy, when there’s a little danger involved, it doesn’t necessarily suffer.”