Netflix debuted season three of the CW hit Dynasty on May 23, but with a pandemic keeping all its actors at home, star Elizabeth Gillies found a way to take promotional matters into her own hands — literally. She pulled off a quarantine photo shoot, capturing 12 of her peers in their respective homes as a creative way to celebrate the debut while also connecting with her friends during a period of extended isolation. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Gillies to discuss the project, her creative vision and its biggest challenge, and what Hollywood can and should be doing right now to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
How did you come up with the idea for this photo project?
I think it was a combination of my frustration being stuck in quarantine, wanting to create, and the fact that our show was about to be released on Netflix and being unable to promote it the way we normally would. I had also seen a couple of FaceTime and Zoom photoshoots on Instagram and thought it would be a perfect opportunity to give it a try.
As someone who knows the camera as an actress and photographer, what was your creative vision?
I wanted to capture everyone in their natural habitat, which was pretty easy to do considering everyone was home and had been for quite some time. That provided the backdrop. Beyond that, I didn’t want to give too many specifics or restrictions. Aside from standing in front of a blank wall, everyone dressed how they wanted to and moved in ways that felt natural to them. We have an incredibly vibrant and diverse cast. Looking through the photos, I think you can see each of their personalities shine through. That was what I was going for.
What was the biggest challenge in pulling it off?
I had never done a photoshoot over FaceTime, so the biggest challenges were all technical. Bad connections meant blurry photos, low-light was tricky, the file sizes were much smaller, which puts you at a disadvantage with editing, et cetera. Aside from that, it felt totally natural. Video chatting is an amazing thing and we’ve gotten so used to it that experiments like this are totally possible and can really end up working. Having a good relationship and a level of trust with the people you’re photographing definitely helps, too.
Your castmates all agreed — what was their response?
To be honest, I knew everyone was getting a bit bored in their homes, so they were probably more likely to agree to something like this now rather than in the middle of production. I’m not sure I could’ve pulled it off under normal circumstances. We have a massive cast. Having said that, I was so impressed with how invested they all were. One after another, they all looked fantastic and came with really interesting ideas to make their shoot unique. We’re a close cast and we have a lot of respect for not only one another but also each other’s creativity. This was just a further demonstration of that. I’m lucky to work with such talented and supportive people.
It is a way to honor the Netflix debut of the latest season while also bringing people together — even virtually. How else has this period of isolation brought you together as a cast?
We have a group chat going. I know that’s commonplace when it comes to casts but ours is particularly active. Thirteen people is no small feat! Aside from talking about the state of the world and everything that’s going on, we share our show’s successes. After the Netflix drop, the response was so overwhelming that we were texting around the clock. To see our show hit the top 10 in so many countries was beyond exciting. It was a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate together. Even virtually.
What is your hope and view of how production can and will resume for when you can go back and start shooting?
I hope we can make the changes necessary to keep the magic in our show alive and yet still film safely, above all else. You think of Dynasty and your mind immediately jumps to opulence and all those massive parties we have on the show. I can’t imagine that will be possible for a while. The day before we wrapped production, I was in a scene with over 150 extras. It’s just not safe anymore. Not right now, at least. Luckily, our cast is big and so are our sets, so I think there’s a lot we can do with what we’ve got. I look forward to going back to work. I may show up in a Hazmat suit but I do look forward to working again.
Lastly, I must ask about this moment in our country’s history. You recently spoke up on Instagram and showed your support. What else can and should your Hollywood peers be doing right now?
So many of us, myself included, have been given a huge platform on social media. It’s an immediate and direct way to communicate to all of our fans at once. That’s a huge advantage but it’s also a major responsibility. We have to be very careful about what we’re choosing to share. This past month it became more evident than ever that we need to be using these platforms to shed light on the many injustices that are happening in our world right now rather than what we had for lunch. It’s been incredible to see Instagram turn from a sea of selfies into a place of education. I am in full support of this movement. I was compelled to speak out on Instagram because I want my fans to know that’s what I stand for and that is where my heart is. It’s our job in Hollywood to set an example and to use our voices to push for change. That’s what I’m doing and what I’ll continue to do.