How Ghosts Series 3 Made Ensemble Comedy Under COVID Restrictions


Making a sitcom with a big cast is no small feat during a pandemic, as the team behind BBC One’s BAFTA-nominated ghosts found out earlier this year.

Those familiar with the previous series will know that the premise of the show – a grand mansion inhabited by a living couple and nine difficult ghosts – routinely requires its cast to share a close proximity as they crowd the historic halls of West Horsley Place. , where Ghosts is filmed.

However, when filming for the third series began in early 2021, extensive restrictions on social contact were still enforced by the UK government, meaning smart workarounds were needed to keep the spirit of the film alive. series intact.

Indeed, co-creator and star Laurence Rickard told RadioTimes.com and other media that the third series would not have been worth making unless it could compete with the previous episodes. , despite the real challenges facing production.

He said: “I think we were very clear from the start that if we got something that worked, but only if you were like, ‘Well that looks like that because they were running it on COVID’ then it sort of wasn’t worth doing.

“It was only worth doing that if you watched series three alongside series two and didn’t realize it was different because it’s an ensemble show and you start to spotting people who are politely placed away from each other, it will start to feel like a different show.

Thankfully, the finished edit is indeed the same ghost the audience fell in love with, bringing the whole gang together for another series of chaotic, wacky stories set at the fictional Button House.

But, while it might not look like this in the released version, there were actually “a lot” of security measures in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spreading on set, the use of cohorts being an instrumental tool.

Rickard continued, “We were organized into cohorts that changed every week, so that there were people we could be in closer contact with.

“So there would be little bubbles of two or three people, and obviously we were also tested two or three times a week, and that week you would do the majority of your scenes with just those people or close to those people. -this. people. And then the next week that would change so much across the show, you wouldn’t notice. “

Several cast members spoke of friendly cohort rivalries forming as the tight-knit group split up several times during the shoot, with Jim Howick (AKA, late Scout Leader Pat) comparing him to moving tables during the shoot. a wedding reception.

Mathew Baynton and Charlotte Ritchie were frequently in the same cohort due to Thomas’ infatuation with Alison
BBC

Even with the use of cohorts, scenes involving the entire cast would not have been possible without a few clever tricks applied in the editing room, as green screens were used to create the illusion of digitally placing the residents of Button House in the same room.

Co-star Mathew Baynton explained, “On a show that has real special effects, with ghosts walking through walls and all kinds of stuff like that, the longest special effects were for shots that wouldn’t have normally not take place – which is just to put a group of people next to each other in a wide shot, which we couldn’t physically do with these guidelines. “

While there were some outdoor scenes that could be filmed “almost” as they were in ordinary times, Rickard agreed that traditionally simple setups became a logistical headache due to restrictions in place. ‘era.

“What would normally be very simple scenes – like all of us sitting around the table having dinner – got really tricky, because you couldn’t sit eight of us together,” he said. “So all of a sudden these really simple scenes turned into a lot of green screens and four hours to shoot, just so we could physically put us next to each other.”

Martha Howe-Douglas noted that the production team also used the location to subtly implement security measures, such as placing a plastic protective screen behind one of the pillars on the ground floor. and placing the actors on either side.

“Obviously you won’t be able to see, but it was there. The restrictions were clearly obvious, but I don’t think they are obvious on screen, ”she added.

This isn’t the first time the pandemic has put the Ghosts crew under serious pressure, as Ghosts also had to race to complete their second round just days before the announcement of the first UK lockdown.

Ghosts series three premieres on BBC One at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, August 9. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV guide to see what’s going on tonight.


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