Catching Up with Scott Foley
Actor Scott Foley returns to mark one year of Quarantine Creatives and discuss his two new projects
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One Year Later
This past week marked the one year anniversary since the beginning of Quarantine Creatives, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on all that has changed in this time and what I’m thinking about and learning.
I lost my long time producing job in March, 2020 and thought it would be easy to find work again. I didn’t expect that within about 4 days of being laid off the entire world would shut down. Like most of us, I retreated into my family and home during those first weeks, figuring out how we would find food and toilet paper and what remote schooling would look like.
By May, 2020, I was eager to get my creative juices flowing again. I had several ideas for lifestyle series that I wanted to develop and produce, but most of them involved some form of travel, which didn’t seem likely in the near future. Even the prospect of shooting something simple close to home felt daunting at that time.
In talking to friends in the industry, it was clear that I was not alone in my restlessness to get back out there. Nearly everyone I knew was home trying to figure out what was next. We needed a forum to talk about all of the changes the pandemic was bringing, and without video work happening, I focused on what I could make at home. Podcasting seemed like the obvious choice.
I purchased a decent microphone, a mixer that would allow me to patch in phone calls, and hung some sound blankets around my newly built desk in a corner of our finished attic.
I pitched the idea of this podcast to Scott Foley, who I knew in passing, and he was very supportive. He was my very first guest on the show and within about five minutes of that first conversation, I felt like I had made the right move. (He’s also my guest this week- stay tuned for more with him below!)
It’s now one year since that first conversation. I’ve recorded 85 episodes in that time, which I still find mind-blowing!
When the show started, there were around 80,000 deaths from COVID-19 with no end in sight. We are now over 589,000 deaths, but vaccines are rapidly being deployed, mask mandates are ending, and it seems like we may have a semi-normal summer.
Just a month into the show, George Floyd’s murder changed the national conversation. A contentious election last fall and the insurrection that followed gave me a sense of urgency to continue talking to others in entertainment and media about what was happening in our world and what the path forward might be. Everything felt upside down for months, and having this outlet was incredibly helpful for me.
This show started because I was cooped up in my house with nowhere to go and nothing to do. I am now in the middle of a very cool freelance producing project that is causing me to work in innovative ways, am shopping a series idea, and developing a few other concepts.
2020 was a strange year and one that will be memorable for all of us that lived through it. I only hope that we are not just returning to the “normal” of before and instead are charting a course towards a new normal. It’s what the thrust of this podcast has been for more than a year, and I hope that those of us in a position to make a difference can help lead us all to that better, more balanced, more equitable new normal.
As I mentioned above, Scott Foley was the first guest ever on this show, and he returned last week for the one year anniversary to talk about all that has changed for him. Like me, he has really enjoyed this past year, despite its challenges, because it allowed him to spend more time with his wife and three kids:
“I’m going to miss all this time I’ve been able to spend with my family. I feel like we missed out on stuff before the pandemic. This really showed me and our family at least that we like each other and we want to be around each other. I don’t just go to work to support a family that I don’t want to see. I want to be around these people.”
When I spoke to Scott last year, he was living in California. His family decided to make a move to Connecticut during the pandemic. Instead of flying, they opted to rent an RV and drive cross country. If you’re interested in hearing Scott and I geek out about RVs at length, you should definitely listen to the full interview, but here’s a little taste of Scott’s thoughts on the RV life:
“I grew up with an RV, we had an RV in our family and we’d go on drives up and down the East Coast, so I was fairly familiar but Marika, my wife, had never done it before, was terrified. She had never really been anywhere in the United States aside from LA or New York. She knew that there was country there but didn’t know anything about it and was kind of scared of it. All I have to say is my wife now wants to buy an RV. She loved it.”
One of the shows that Scott was able to shoot during the pandemic was the reality competition show Ellen’s Next Great Designer for HBO Max. It features seven designers from across the country creating and building custom furniture. I have learned that Scott is really passionate about furniture making and has created some very cool pieces (like the cutting board above from his wife’s Instagram page), although I didn’t know this was a trait that he shared with Ellen DeGeneres. After seeing them paired for Ellen’s Next Great Designer, it makes sense:
“Ellen and I have talked at length, not just on air but off air, about our love for home renovation and design. I think when she was putting this project together, I was the right fit and her people reached out and I was so excited to be a part of this. Although a little nervous if I’m being honest, never having done reality television and always able to not be Scott Foley. I can always hide behind a character and other person’s words, so there was a little hesitation on my part. But the main issue was shooting a reality show, a competition reality show during COVID.”
When Scott and I talked a year ago, this project was put on an indefinite hold because of the pandemic. While the initial concept was more in line with a show like Project Runway, where all of the contestants work in one space and are judged after each challenge, that approach was difficult to safely produce during the pandemic. Scott described how the concept for the show evolved:
“The producers came up with an inventive way of doing the show. We were able to deliver the challenges to the contestants via Zoom. We allowed them to, within a specific time frame, complete the challenges in their own studios, in their home workshops basically. And then to do all the sort of connective tissue, the on-air delivering of the challenges, the judging, the voting off, we then flew everybody to LA for like 10 days instead of having everyone together for two months. So it worked out really well and I’m so proud of the show. I surprise myself when I say that, but I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
With contestants working in their shops in places like New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, the only way to fairly judge each project in a time of COVID was to have each contestant complete the entire scope of challenges for the whole series, and then judge them later:
“Every contestant did every challenge, except for the final. So Alejandro, who unfortunately is so talented but was voted out first, he had made six other pieces that we just never got to see because he was voted out. They made all their pieces, we flew them all out to LA. I had never seen them before, you saw me see them on camera for the first time. I wanted that reaction, whether surprise or disappointment or indifference, to be legitimate and real for the audience at home seeing it. I felt the viewer deserved that, as did the contestant who was being judged.”
The show is one of the best looking lifestyle shows I’ve seen in a while. It is well edited, beautifully shot, and has a great energy. The contestants are diverse and accomplished. Both on camera and behind the scenes, it is clearly a dedicated, talented group and Scott told me what it was like working with such a great team:
“I think the designers are so good at what they do. Working with their hands, the craftsmanship that they bring to it, the artistic vision that they all have, the way that it all plays out on the show, the way the producers and the director have edited and cut the show together, it’s really high quality. You can see they spent the money. From what I’ve heard and read online, people are really enjoying the show.”
Ellen’s Next Great Designer is streaming now on HBO Max. If you like furniture design, building, and craftsmanship, this show is definitely worth a look!
The last time Scott was on the podcast, he also described waiting in a hotel room in Chicago for production to begin on a new pilot as the pandemic was starting across the US. That pilot was The Big Leap, and it was finally completed earlier this year. Scott described the year-long process that it took to bring this idea to the screen, and his reaction to it:
“This was a script that came across my desk, early 2020 or late 2019 for pilot season. I loved it. My first read, I thought it was engaging and funny and heartwarming and uplifting and it was something I wanted to be a part of. Filming it was tough. We started filming it in late February  in Chicago. Understandably, we were shut down I think before we got a minute of film shot. We were all sent home. When things calmed down a little bit, we went back to try to shoot around December of 2020. We got six or seven days of filming and someone contracted COVID. We shut the whole production down again. We went back in February and finished the pilot off. It took three different trips to Chicago, three different crews for the most part. We got it put together. I was able to see a cut about a week ago and it is fantastic. We were laughing and smiling, my wife at one point reached over and pulled up her sleeve and showed me the goosebumps on her arms, and my kids were crying at the end. It just feels good.”
The Big Leap was recently picked up with a 10 episode order and will be coming to FOX later this year.
On Thursday, I will be talking with New England based singer-songwriter Jesse Terry. His new album When We Wander is a beautiful mix of original Americana songs that evoke the open road. Jesse spent more than a decade touring all over the world, but has been home for more than a year now. We talk about the strange mix of road music and staying home, plus life as a new parent, and his songwriting process. I hope you’ll take a listen!
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