Danielle Brooks wanted to find a way to stay creative during quarantine. So she's starring in a TV show about it.
Set in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, "Social Distance" is an eight-part anthology series - focusing on one person or family each episode - about navigating the uncertainty and unexpected circumstances of this singular moment in history. In the third installment, the former "Orange Is the New Black" star plays Imani, a working single mom trying to figure out how to care for her daughter while also keeping her job.
Now streaming on Netflix, "Social Distance" was shot remotely under various stay-at-home orders designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. That meant Brooks, a new mom to daughter Freeya, filmed her episode from her parents' home in South Carolina - and shared the screen with her mother Larita Brooks, who plays a patient with ALS that Brooks cares for at a nursing home.
Now back at her home in Brooklyn, where construction was underway, Brooks chatted with The Times in her backyard via video conference about the way quarantine has helped her relationships with her family, how being a new mom has opened her eyes to the disparities mothers face, and how this year has her thinking about the work she pursues. The following has been edited for clarity and condensed.
Q: It feels like 10 years ago at this point, but what do you remember about those early days of the pandemic?
A: I remember not believing it. I remember being like, "Oh, the government is trying to control us." I was in Atlanta about to start a new TV show for Netflix, and we had to stop production. And I remember that day hanging out with my friends - it was like four or five of us, just hanging out one last time, knowing it was gonna be a long time before we could do it again. We knew, after this, we're going to be stuck in the house. And because the baby was like, maybe 4 months old, I didn't want to take her back to New York because everyone was saying New York was not the place to be during quarantine. So I decided to go to South Carolina, which was two hours away, to my parents' house. I thought that I was only gonna be there for two weeks. I ended up being there for a little under four months.
Imagine moving back in with your parents, with a baby, without your fiance - because he has to work and figure out our house stuff back in New York. But I had a great time. I got to know my parents as an adult and a mother. I got to understand them as grandparents. And my brother was there. Growing up, we didn't get to spend that much time together, so we're getting to hang out, with him as an adult. And just watch Freeya grow at a slower pace. At the time, they weren't closing down the parks. So I would get up every morning and walk two, three miles around the park, in the neighborhood, just get to be in nature and get Freeya to enjoy fresh air. It's been cool to not have that pressure of being a new mom, of the bounce back, and trying to be everything that society tells you you're supposed to be.
Q: What was the show you were working on? Do you have a sense of when production will resume?
A: I can't talk about it. It's a new show. It's still in limbo, but we're hoping for the spring. This show is a little different from the norm. Especially during quarantine, you never know what's going to happen. Hopefully the show will continue. But you just never know what's going to take place.
Q: Did you learn anything about yourself through this time?