In the year 2020 there’s plenty to concern us, but now CBS brings us a new show with a simple message, B Positive. Annaleigh Ashford and Thomas Middleditch star in this brand new sitcom from Chuck Lorre about a man who needs a kidney transplant and finds a match in the most unlikely of places.
CBS‘ Matt Weiss spoke to Middleditch and Ashford about the new show and the process of filming in 2020, elbow bumps and all.
MW: Hello there Annaleigh and Thomas! Congrats on B Positive. What’s it like for you to put out a brand new show in 2020?
TM: It’s been it’s been a little different in the sense that we shot our pilot in front of a studio audience way back, I don’t even remember when.
AA: It was like the first week in March. The night before the world changed.
TM: Yes. We have that sense memory of being in front of an audience and laughs and that energy. We’re just sort of holding on to that as we continue in a world of masks and constantly washing your hands and only taking your mask off to perform the scene, and then back on, and no audience. It’s a bit of a challenge but like the mantra of the television show that we are in we are being positive.
MW: You mentioned the masks, what kind of other restrictions have you all had in place?
AA: We’re taking every protocol that you can take. We’re following all of the CDC guidelines plus some more. One of the things that’s been kind of interesting because the crew’s in full PPE all the time we have never seen the crew’s faces; we’ve only seen their eyes.
We’re all looking forward to the day where we’ll get to see each other’s faces and hug each other because we spent a lot of time together over the last seven weeks. Hopefully, we’ll get to spend a lot more time together.
MW: Is it like elbow bumps for now?
AA: Air. We do air elbow bumps. [Laughs]
MW: Wow, not even an air-five, air elbow bumps. Everyone’s being safe, glad to hear it. The story itself, we have a named man Drew, things aren’t going great for him, he needs a kidney transplant and your character Gina is an old acquaintance of his. You two link up and then you offer your kidney up to him, once you find out that you only need one. What’s it been like to build that chemistry between the two of you?
AA: We’re lucky that we get to play characters that are complete opposites. Drew is sort of a fuddy duddy. He likes to read and drink tea, and Gina likes to drink shots. Playing polar opposites always sets up the perfect dynamic for comedy. I think one of the special things about this premise and this story is it came from a true story from Marco Pennette, our show creator. These two people are connected for the rest of their lives. When Gina gives Drew his kidney it’s in him forever. They are connected forever.
MW: It’s the ultimate sign of friendship really. Thomas you have a history with improv and Annaleigh, you have a history of being on live stage performing. What’s the difference between those two mediums and doing this kind of show?
TM: With improv everything is completely off the cuff. I would say even in a single camera comedy there’s a lot of opportunity to try a whole bunch of stuff because you kind of just sit for a certain set up and get it on script and then just kind of go for it. Whereas this a lot of the experimentation and trying this to see if it worked happens before you shoot. It happens in the rehearsal process.
This is much more akin to putting on a play than I’ve been used to. I think the last play I was in was when I was in college so this is going back to some deep roots. But yeah there’s a whole rehearsal process and then when you do the scenes you have to find the rhythm and get into the flow. I’m fortunate that I’ve had that experience but not nearly as much as Annaleigh.
AA: I totally agree with Thomas it does feel like we’re doing a 30-minute play every week; which is delightful. One of the other things that’s sort of special about this medium in particular is that it’s sort of in all of our marrow. We can all count five sitcoms on our hand that are nostalgic for us, that make us think of warm special times, we can think of a scene that makes us laugh from Cheers or I Love Lucy.
There are some days where I feel so honored to be a part of that tradition, and part of that structure, and function. Situational comedy and that’s what life is like. It should really mirror what’s happening in life. I feel like we’re starting off on the right foot by mirroring Marco Pennette’s life.
MW: That’s a good point going into my next question. People want something new to watch throughout this whole pandemic. We’ve all exhausted our libraries and now you’re able to give us some new content. What does that mean to each of you to bring a show, and a positive show on top of that, into people’s homes every week now?
TM: Piggybacking what Annaleigh said, with this particular medium, the multicam, it ends up being kind of that familial experience. You come back week after week to come back to characters that you know and love. You just settle into these are my friends that I come back to every week. No one’s battling space aliens or anything it’s a much more humanized story. To be a part of that and to be a part of a show with this mantra where we are literally trying to overcome our differences and be positive. I cheesily shot the title in there. [Laughs]
The character of Drew is his own little rain cloud and you’ve got Gina coming in and trying to spice up his life while he’s desperately trying to reign in hers. At a time in our own lives in 2020 when there’s plenty of division and plenty of animosity I think boy, if we can if we can bring people together in any way I’m very happy to be a part of that.
AA: Throughout history when the world has faced different struggles, laughter has always been sort of a savior for people in the everyday day-to-day life. I just really hope that we can be a light throughout the week for people and help people just forget what they’re going through in their own life. It’s a really special reminder to be kind to each other and love your neighbor. And be positive.
MW: I think we set a record for the shoehorning the title of a show in and seamlessly I might add.
TM: Oh, so seamless. [Laughs]
MW: Thank you both so much for the time today. It’s been great talking to each of you and all the best with the show!
TM: Thanks, Matt!
AA: Thank you so much!
Tune in for B Positive, Thursday nights at 8:30 PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. Check your local listings for more information.