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Ask a Pro: JOSH SCHWARTZ, Showrunner


JOSH SCHWARTZ, co-founder of Fake Empire with Stephanie Savage—producers and creators of The OC, the original Gossip Girl, Chuck, and more. Next up, 2021’s Gossip Girl on HBO MAX.


How much do you factor the pandemic into your narratives from here on out? Are the characters wearing masks and social distancing? Can you have a party scene? Can two characters greet each other with a handshake, kiss hello, hug, or go to a bar without acknowledging the covid situation? – NK  


This is an excellent question and one that is unique to every show. Every writer’s room is navigating this issue and has been for the past year.

If you’re a returning series and you intended for your new season to take place the day after your finale, it’s possible that in the timeline of your show COVID hasn’t even happened yet! If you’re a show that is looking to offer more escapism, then perhaps you’re presenting a world where COVID is in the rear view mirror and everyone is “back to normal.” Some series will lean into it, build stories around it, have it affect its characters. Some will acknowledge it superficially. Some series went back into production thinking that by the time their show aired this will all be over only to find that the real life events have gotten worse. We will see a million different versions of how these real life events will show up in our shows.

It’s all been impossible to predict and gone on much longer than most expected at the outset. But throughout the pandemic we have been sustained by shows largely filmed before Covid hit, and anecdotally no one seems bothered by crowds without masks, or characters engaged in indoor dining… in fact some audiences are watching for precisely that reason; nostalgic for a time not-so-long-ago when those simple things were routine.

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