Executive producer and showrunner Lauren Simms reveals the crew's emotions were "really high" during the unexpected end to the season.
The unprecedented year of 2020 brought an unprecedented end to this season of Below Deck. Captain Lee Rosbach sat the crew down in the Below Deck Season 8 finale, which aired on February 15, to break the news that the final two groups of guests had cancelled, and their charter season was effectively over.
Lauren Simms, an executive producer and showrunner of Below Deck who has been with the series since Season 4, remembered emotions being "really high" toward the end of this charter season. "They don’t teach you how to sort of prepare for crisis situations like this," Simms shared during an exclusive interview with Bravo Insider, which took place over the phone in November 2020. "And it certainly felt like we were in a crisis because, you know, you have a team of about 50 out there."
Simms recalled what it was like filming Season 8 of Below Deck as, little by little, the My Seanna crew heard new developments about the coronavirus (COVID-19). "It was a very surreal feeling. We went down there [to Antigua] in early February," Simms said. "We just thought this would pass, and being down there, we were in a bubble. I think by the time we wrapped up in mid-March, there was only one case."
Because Season 8 of Below Deck started filming in February before any major stay-at-home orders were put in place in the United States, it provides a unique documentation of life before COVID-19 became a daily reality. "The interesting thing about it is that we were sort of tracking the rise and escalation of COVID on film in a way that’s different from a lot of the portrayals of COVID in other shows, because a lot of [other shows] it was after the fact. It’s like, how do we learn to live and sort of get together and what happens now," Simms said. "But for us, we were sort of tracking it as it happened."
Because of that, the decision was made in post-production to denote the date each of this season's episodes took place. "Right when we got back, when we were sort of starting to figure out how many episodes we have and start to figure it all out, I was like, well, we should definitely date stamp things, because as COVID becomes more and more and more, I think it’s important to know what date we’re at," Simms explained. "There’s some early phone calls home in the show, and you can really just sort of feel the rise of this thing and the escalation of sort of a fear. Obviously, it ramps up a lot in the back end of the season. You know, guests are talking about it. It’s everywhere."
So, when the My Seanna crew's charter season came to an abrupt end, the most important thing for the production team was to make sure that everyone involved in the show got back home successfully. "I’m just glad that we got our people home safe, and that everyone got home safe and sound," Simms said. "That means more to me than anything."
Returning home from filming this season of Below Deck presented its own challenges as post-production work had to be done remotely. However, Simms couldn't be more impressed with how the whole production team handled all of the obstacles that came their way this season.
"I’m really proud of the crew for filming the season and also for the team working in post. I’m just proud of the entire team for what they did this season in light of what we were against. The crew that works on the show is really passionate about it, and they’re all very good at their job. I’m just proud of everyone for doing it, for us getting the show to air in all of this," Simms shared. "We’ve never had to work from home, and it’s challenging. Everyone’s done a really fantastic job. So I’m proud of the whole team."
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