Surry native on filming popular TV series

By Terry Harris

Surry County’s own Antonio Charity is currently portraying Herman Macklin on Nickelodeon’s “Danger Force,”a popular comedy spin-off of the network’s award-winning “Henry Danger” series which ran for eight seasons through 2019.  During a coast to coast call last weekend Charity described going to work to play the father of teen Superheroes during a global pandemic.

“When I booked it, it was as a guest star, possibly a returning role,” Charity said. “But on the set, wardrobe talked about ‘when you come back’ and the producers, director, everyone acted as if it was a foregone conclusion.  And it’s hard to describe what it’s like being there because everything’s different because of COVID.  For one thing, everybody - the director, producer, wardrobe, makeup – they all wear face masks all the time. We even do rehearsals in them right up until they’re ready to shoot a scene, then only actors are allowed to take them off.  I’ve been on six episodes so far and will be the seventh in a few weeks, and I haven’t seen anybody’s face yet except the kids and my TV wife!”

With his signature booming laugh, he described a humorous event arising from the always-masked scenario. 

“Over the holiday break, I went with wife and daughter to Walmart,” he said, “and we’re pulling into the parking lot and a lady says, ‘HEY, Brother!’ I said, ‘Hi…?’ I had no idea who she was, but I was being polite. She goes, ‘That your baby in the back?  She know she’s got a brother and a sister?’  I just kind of chuckled – no idea who she was talking about.  Embarrassed to ask, ‘Who ARE you?’ because she seemed to know me well, but I still had no idea who I was talking to.”

“My wife was cracking up,” he continued.  “She thought it was the funniest thing!  Two or three minutes after the woman took off, I finally realized she must be on the show!  I’m about 99 percent sure she must be the mother of the kid who plays my son, but I’m still not positive, because earlier this week I shot another episode, and I was hinting around to the boy asking, ‘Did your mother tell you she ran into me?’ and he just said, ‘No….  yeah…?’ so now I’m still not sure.  That’s what it’s like now.”

On a more serious note, he added, “Right now everything is a day at a time - hard to plan or anticipate anything as this industry - this country as a whole - is waiting to see what’s going to happen with the virus spiking in places, confusion about the vaccine. And the COVID crisis is really bad here.  News says someone dies here in L.A. every eight minutes of COVID.  A good friend lost his mother a couple of weeks ago, and they couldn’t even find a funeral home. Everything is overbooked. They had to cremate. It’s happening a lot.”

“At least in LA, a lot of stuff is still shut down – productions closed,” he continued, “so I’m very fortunate that I’m on one of the few shows that’s still shooting. I feel very grateful to be working right now.” 

“A lot of the usual interactions aren’t happening,” he said, as he described the differences between being on set now and pre-COVID.  “If not on set, I stay in my dressing room – no chitchat, no handshaking, no craft service.  They bring lunch to your room. And I test for COVID REGULARLY – at least every other day. Last Saturday, I had to take a test.  Monday when I arrived on set, I had to take another. You drive up, they do the swab up your nose, you pull over in the parking lot and wait.  Takes about 45 minutes most days, but one day it took over two and a half hours for the results.  I just had to wait in my car.  Couldn’t even enter the building.”

Charity said that after they shot the pilot in January, the arrival of COVID-19 shut everything down from March until September.

“We don’t have a norm yet,” he shrugged. “I don’t know what normal is. Don’t know how many episodes we’re going to shoot. Frequently with kids, they do two seasons back-to-back because kids grow up so fast and quickly look different. We just have to wait and see.”

Asked how he likes doing the show, his signature laugh rang out again as he said, “The answer to that is always, ‘I love it!’  Work doesn’t come often enough for me not to love it when I get it!”

As for his favorite things about working on this show, he said that there are two.

“I like that filming is close to home, and that my daughter can watch,” he said. “I live in Burbank and we’re shooting only about a 10-minute drive away.  That’s absolutely wonderful in LA, where very often the commute can take a long time.  And most of the work I’ve done has been hour-long dramas for adults that Ebony Jewel is not permitted to watch, but this is a show for kids of all ages.  She is eight now, so she and her mom, Tige, and I watch episodes together and she really enjoys it.”

Finally, when asked how he scored the role of the father of superhero kids in a Nickelodeon comedy, Charity responded, “My answer to that question about any show is, ‘By the grace of God.’ I never know why I get cast.  Who ever knows what the people on the other side of the table are thinking? About a year ago – about this time – I went in.  I don’t even remember it.  It was one of many auditions.  I have no idea what I did that they liked at “Danger Force.” But I’m awfully glad.”