Strict Covid rules remove some of the fun from filming Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas specials

Hit show: Brendan O'Carroll in a scene from this year's Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special. Photo Alan Peebles

Comedian Brendan O’Carroll has described how “laborious” it was filming the two Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas specials because of the BBC’s strict health and safety rules.

The BAFTA-winning star and his wife, Jennifer Gibney, flew from their home in Florida to film the festive episodes at the BBC studios in Glasgow. But the funnyman said making the 30-minute episodes was extra tough due to Covid-19.

“One of the things that stands out blaringly was one of the BBC guidelines – and we had 42 (people) between crew and cast – that if one person tests positive, the show stops, the whole thing would be closed down,” he told the Irish Independent.

“That meant there would be no show.

“We could be in the middle of a scene and someone would yell ‘cut’ and point out that two of the cameramen had come within a certain distance of each other. They would have to be separated and we would have to do the scene all over again.

Then they’d have to re-choreograph the cameras so they didn’t come close to each other.

“Then there had to be checks on the set because we’d have been halfway through the scene, we’d have to leave completely and the guys would come in and spray it down.”

The creator of the hit series had eight coronavirus tests during his time making the two shows. At one point, filming had to be suspended after a Covid-19 scare on-set.

“We were lucky that we got through it,” he said.

“What would usually be a two-hour recording to get your 30-minute show was a 12-hour day, and it was quite laborious.

“We were in the middle of one rehearsal and we had got tested the day before and we were waiting for the tests to come back. Eight of them, including my own, were ‘inconclusive’.

“Everybody was immediately sent to their dressing room and locked in. We had to wait and be retested, and it all came back negative.”

Mr O’Carroll said there was an emotional moment when the two episodes were finally completed.

“I nearly cried when we finished the final scene and they said, ‘That’s it; we’re done’. I got such a sense of achievement. I went ‘there’s going to be a Mrs Brown’s on Christmas Day’ and it was a weird feeling,” he said. “But people really need a laugh at the end of 2020.”

Airing on RTÉ and BBC on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, Mr O’Carroll said there will be a “different” feel to the two shows this year but all the usual characters will be returning as viewers see how Mrs Brown and her crew are coping with life under lockdown.

Mr O’Carroll and his wife are keeping to their tradition of giving out Christmas Day dinners to disadvantaged families, as they do every year with St Vincent de Paul.

This year they will be helping 2,482 families, who will each receive a Christmas card from Mrs Brown and a credit card to buy a turkey to feed seven people, a ham, a bottle of wine and treats for the kids.

“We’ve had no earnings this year but we knew we had committed ourselves to doing it and it’s going to be the same this year,” he said.

Mr O’Carroll said one thing he had noticed from his work with the charity this Christmas was that there had been more middle-income earners in need of help.


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