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Tyler Perry talks about precautions allowing his studio to safely resume filming

The entertainment mogul was able to safely put 360 people back to work to film a new season of his BET show "Sistas" during the pandemic.
/ Source: TODAY

Tyler Perry calls it "a blessing" that he has found a way to safely put 360 people back to work at his film and television studio in Atlanta during the pandemic.

The entertainment mogul talked on the 3rd hour of TODAY on Wednesday about the precautions his production has taken that have allowed his BET show "Sistas" to become the first television series to film a new season during the pandemic.

"For the most part, what I wanted to do, I had to make a choice,'' he told Al Roker and Craig Melvin. "I could have went away and waited for a vaccine. Fortunately enough, I'm in that kind of position, but I have 360 people that are working for me that needed to pay their bills.

"And they've bought houses and cars, and so I had to find a way to make sure I could keep them safe because we did have a crew member who was working on another show at the beginning of the COVID outbreak who passed. So it's been my complete intent to make sure I can get 360 people through this thing safely."

Perry sent out a 30-page document in May to his staff that is titled "Camp Quarantine," which he said he formulated with the help of Dr. Carlos del Rio, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Colleen Kraft, who are all affiliated with Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

The quarantine bubble model has also been used to help restart various sports, including the NBA, UFC and Major League Soccer. The long-running CBS soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" also resumed filming last month during the pandemic with a host of precautions and began airing new episodes last week.

The procedures at Perry's studio include members of the cast being tested in their hometown 16 days before travel and then self-isolating before leaving for the studio in Atlanta. They are then retested using the nasal swap method once they arrive at the studio and then remain in their individual rooms for four to six hours before the test results come back.

After all the cast and crew members are cleared, they are all able to go to work the following day. Also, once they are in the quarantine bubble, they are not allowed to leave for a 14-day period, and anyone who tests positive is removed from the studio's campus immediately.

Face masks and social distancing are required except for actors during filming or during hair or makeup when necessary. All those participating in the filming are then tested before they leave at the end of the shoot.

The early results of "Camp Quarantine" are encouraging, as Perry just wrapped production of season two of "Sistas." He said they had no one test positive during the shoot, but did have four positive tests before they started filming.

"The presence of it was there, but we were able to keep it out of the camp, which is really a blessing," he said.

Perry has also pushed for testing not only for his studio, but also the local community in Atlanta, where his Perry Foundation set up a mobile testing van at various locations to provide free coronavirus tests from July 13-17.

The producer and director also had members of the Atlanta Police Department distribute 1,000 $50 Kroger gift cards to people in need earlier this month amid the protests over racial injustice following the death of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta in June.

"Having the police officers out in the community handing out these cards, I thought it built goodwill ... to show the world that every police officer's not bad, every Black person is not bad," Perry said. "I just wanted to send a great message across the world that there are some of us who are standing with good police officers as well as Black (people) and standing in the community who want this all to work out in the best way for everybody."

The Atlanta community has also been mourning the loss of congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, who died at 80 on July 17 and will be laid to rest in a ceremony in the city on Thursday. Lewis was a 33-year member of the House of Representatives who represented the district where Perry's studio is located.

"He wanted what was right," Perry said. "I want people to remember he was a good man, and good always wins."