Coastal Elites
'Coastal Elites' Is The Quarantine Comedy We Need RN & The Cast Is Everything

by Ani Bundel
Originally Published: 

HBO's Coastal Elites was not meant to be a series about the pandemic. Executive producer Paul Rudnick started working on the show's concept in 2019 for a live play at the Public Theater in New York City and adapted the story as the world changed around him. The resulting special, filmed via the video-conferencing software Zoom, sounds like one of the most timely and funniest series about the pandemic you can imagine. But when does HBO's Coastal Elites debut? And what can fans expect from it?

Coastal Elites is one of the first scripted projects to tackle the "new normal" of the coronavirus pandemic. Several production studios have series in production that will be "Zoom-based" or shot in a socially distanced manner, each telling stories about the world as it is right now. But HBO managed to get this one out first, with a filming schedule that began in June.

The short turnaround time also meant the scripts could be modified as world events dictated. For example, this started as a show about politics before becoming a show about the pandemic. Then, when the demonstrations against police brutality began, Rudnick folded that in too. This special is going to be one of the most topical scripted projects to hit the airwaves this coming fall.


As for the rest of the details, let's break them down:

'Coastal Elites' Trailer

The trailer for Coastal Elites serves as an introduction to the five characters who the film follows. It also gives a sense of how the production used video conferencing as a filming format for the socially distanced project. Sarah Paulson's character, for instance, is a YouTube star, and her fake background plays up the now-all-too-familiar sense of taking a Zoom meditation class. Meanwhile, Bette Midler's character is in police custody for an unknown incident, making her solo performance more of an interaction with an invisible person across the table.

'Coastal Elites' Cast

The Coastal Elites cast was revealed in June 2020, months into the lockdown situation. Having spent weeks at home, the actors had an idea, going in, what a "video conferencing-filmed" show would be, and the director, knowing each actor would be carrying standalone monologues that tell the story, aimed for actors who have those kinds of chops.

To that end, the Coastal Elites cast is stacked. It features Bette Midler, Sarah Paulson, Kaitlyn Dever, Dan Levy, and Issa Rae. Midler's character, Miriam Nessler, is a longtime teacher in the NYC public school system who's just had a run-in with the law. Paulson, as noted above, plays YouTube personality Clarissa Montgomery.

Levy's character is an out-of-work Hollywood actor on the verge of making it, Mark Hesterman, while Rae plays a well-connected philanthropist, Callie Josephson.

But while these are obvious parodies of New York, D.C., and L.A. stereotypes, Dever's character Sharynn Tarrows seems an outlier. She's a young nurse from Wyoming who flies to New York to volunteer during the peak of the crisis. Perhaps her view of these "coastal elites" will help keep viewers grounded.

'Coastal Elites' Plot Details

Coastal Elites was supposed to be a comedy poking fun at the idea of liberal people suffering under Trumpism, and the growing political divide around them. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it became that show, only more so. These angry elitists are now suddenly living in a world that has gone beyond satire, beyond the levels of bad news even the biggest catastrophizer could have imagined.

'Coastal Elites' Premiere Date

Coastal Elites arrives on HBO on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. It is a 90-minute standalone and is currently being treated as a one-off special.

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