John Lehr is best known for his work on the series’ Quickdraw, 10 Items or Less, Jailbait, and Jesse. During the recent pandemic he starred alongside Joseph D. Reitman in the film Coronavirus Conspiracy.
How have you and the family been passing time during the Pandemic? What are some of the most challenging issues you have faced during this time?
Basically, the wheels have totally come off the wagon at the Lehr household. I’d like to say we held it together for a bit at the start of the pandemic but honestly, we have been running around panicked with our hair on fire from day one. I’m surprised we are all still fed and have clean clothes. The kids are in computer school which is a nightmare. I dream about the days when I could dump them at school for a few hours of peace. My home office has a connecting door to my boy’s bedroom. It’s like having the most annoying, snooping co-worker of all time. He’s constantly (and by constantly, I mean well over 100 times a day) barging into my office to “chat” or see “what’s up” or wondering “what I’m working on.” If this were a real workplace I would have reported him to HR a long time ago. Instead, I have to love him, hug him or feed him depending.
What would you say is the most important thing you have learned from this strange year?
Being a recovering addict/alcoholic, my fallback position is hard wired to be a cynical glass half empty point of view (unless it is half full of bourbon of course) but I have to say I have some genuine gratitude that I didn’t see coming in all of this. There is no doubt this is a horrible time and the forecasts don’t look great but most of the people around me have found some good things to come from this nightmare as well. I am spending more time with my family (which is mostly a good thing) and the shutdown of the entertainment industry has forced me to take a step back and look at the lay of the land. I’m not stopping to smell the roses but I am walking a bit more slowly when I pass them.
How do you think the Pandemic has affected the film and television industry most? Do you think it will ever fully recover from this year?
The pandemic makes something that is already hard to do… even harder. I don’t know if movies as we know it will be back the way they were, but what do I know. As to shooting, I just worked on a film that worked under the covid protocols and it was definitely different — smaller crew footprint, daily tests, mask enforcement but MOST importantly — no craft services (snacks)! WTF?! It’s always cracked me up that the entertainment industry is the only business I know of that requires snacks at all times. Don’t get me wrong — I love trail mix as much as anyone, but now I’m discovering I can act without it!
What was it like working with Joseph Reitman on Coronavirus Conspiracy?
Joe is a really talented actor and I learned a ton. As you know my background is improv and Coronavirus Conspiracy was a legit scripted feature with only two characters so it was a huge challenge for me. I know Joe from the Geico caveman days and was thrilled to work with him again. I’m also a fan of his work. He was a total pro — as ready to rehearse and work but fun and receptive as well. Since we were in every scene we had to get the script DOWN almost like a play. I’ve seen a rough cut and he kills in this film. I can’t wait for people to see it.
How did the two of you first meet?
Joe and I met on the set of one of the first Geico Caveman commercial shoots. We were both already in makeup so I had to google him up to see what he looked like. We’ve stayed in touch over the years and I became a fan of his work. When I found out he was co-starring in Safer at Home, I was in 100%.
Can you tell our readers a little about the film and what to expect from it?
It takes place during covid back in March when the lockdown was first underway. At the start, my character wakes up in his bedroom (or rather he thinks it is his bedroom) after heading out to the grocery store for toilet paper and finds himself chained to the wall. And things get weird from there. I sort of describe it as Waiting for Godot meets Brazil.
When is it expected to be released and where will we be able to find it?
That I don’t know. There is a facebook page and I know there is a rough cut already because I’ve seen it! I think the producers have it on the fast track since it is set during covid.
Did it feel good to just be working during such times as these?
Oh hell yes. So many communities and industries have been hit so hard and Hollywood is one of them. I know crew people and actors who have had nothing since March. It’s really tough on families. I was nervous about shooting during covid of course but I think the unions and industry have done a good job with the covid protocols. I’ve been doing a lot of comedy on zoom (particularly my Cold Sober Comedy show) but there ain’t nothing like being on a set.
Do you think Hulu will ever bring back Quick Draw for a third season? Do you miss working on that?
You never know but there has been no indication that they are looking to bring Quickdraw back. Man that was a fun show. The good news is we all knew it was a special time while we were making it. Everyone had a blast and we all have stayed in touch — mainly because the fans refuse to let it die. I will tell you this: Nancy Hower and I have a feature script ready to go!
What other projects are you looking forward to working on when all of this has passed?
I just finished acting in pilot and am producing another pilot I hope to pitch in the new year. I’m getting ready to pitch a show now but I’m not writing that one. I’ve been performing on zoom a lot. I’m doing a zoom version of my “comedic lecture” solo show which I am calling Social Distance Learning with John Lehr. Like my live show, I discuss my recovery in a humorous yet meaningful way and have added interactive elements that people seem to like.
What do you think is key to a life well lived?
Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
I’m shooting an improv based project with Bob Clendenin in mid-November!