Robin Thede on how writing a fictional quarantine prepared her to live in a real one

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Quinta Brunson, Gabrielle Dennis, Robin Thede and Ashley Nicole Black are stuck together during “The Event" Photo credit: HBO

Robin Thede, the creator, executive producer, showrunner and leading lady of HBO’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” had a moment of clairvoyance when she wrote a quarantine interstitial for her show’s first season. Now, almost a year after premiering, the world is living in what she calls her “fever dream.” 

“I think for me, it was kind of a deep-seated fear,” Thede says. “I wanted to make fun of it because I think that's the best way to deal with that is to find the humor and realize that we're all going to be OK. And I think even in our real life scenario, we will be okay.”

Thede says there are similarities between her imagined version of isolation, and what is playing out in reality. Because of her “doomsday mentality,” Thede had already stocked up on food and toilet paper. She has not quarantined with her three best friends though, so she is reading books, and continuing to write. 

“I think some days writing a silly comedy or something feels a little too light given the seriousness of the situation. And then other days, it's a fantastic form of escapism,” she says. “I just don't think we'll know how this affects us creatively until we're out of it.”

As a producer, she is thinking about what audiences will want to see in the future. “I'm just not sure we're going to want to see a bunch of movies about pandemics or TV shows about people quarantine,”she says. “It will really depend on what the market has an appetite for.”

During isolation, she says that she’s learned that everyone has the same human instinct,“which is to over eat, to complain, [and] at the end of the day, [to] have compassion for the human existence.” 

“There's a lot of good that will come out of this, but I think we're going to go through a roller coaster of emotions in the meantime.”



Larry Perel