Inside the COVID-Safe Premiere of Disney Plus’ ‘Big Shot’: ‘Don’t Touch the Balls!’

Marc Malkin
·4-min read

“We have to cleans the balls,” a publicist warned “Big Shot” actor Cricket Wampler. “Don’t touch the balls.”

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The arrivals line at the 150-car drive-in premiere of the new Disney Plus series “Big Shot” on Wednesday night included racks of basketballs, but as Wampler grabbed one to show off her dribbling skills, she was told to be careful because of, well, COVID.

“We have to sanitize,” the publicist said.

The simple act of dribbling a basketball may have seemed like a cute idea, but health concerns would dictate otherwise. “This is weird,” John Stamos, who stars in “Big Shot” as a Marvin Korn, a former NCAA basketball coach who finds himself coaching at a private all-girl’s high school, told Variety. “But I’m also glad we’re here.”

Stamos, wearing a finely tailored suit and one of the “Big Shot” face masks he ordered for the cast, said an in-person event was “better” than the gift boxes most studios have been sending to VIPs during the pandemic with the hope that a bunch of swag will compel them to watch – and post on social media – about their new film or television series.

After the carpet — which was actually a slab of wood gym flooring — Stamos was one of the few people to take advantage of the hand sanitizer dispenser situated at the end of the carpet before joining his wife Caitlin McHugh at their car.

Before the event, guests — including the cast — were told that masks would need to be worn at all times. “I like that because let’s not pretend this is over, because it’s not. If we’re going to get together let’s do it the safe way,” Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays the school’s principal, told Variety. “I’m vaccinated so I feel safer, but I don’t think anything about this makes any of us feel safe. It’s still something in the air that’s killing us and someone could have it and you don’t know. All of that is real.”

This was not only Brown’s first carpet in over a year, but she also took a flight a couple of weeks ago to Atlanta to make her directorial debut with a short film about breast cancer for BET. “I was terrified the entire time,” she said. “I kept my mask on from the time I left my house. I had three masks and two shields. I didn’t take any of it off until I was in my hotel with the HEPA filter that I had delivered before I arrived. Then I was like I could take it all off.”

Stamos was excited that “Big Shot” was finally being released. It actually began shooting in 2019 but production was delayed because of the pandemic. They finished shooting in February.

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On his way to the premiere, Stamos received an email from series co-creator David E. Kelley.

“When I went in to talk to David, he remembered me when I went in an auditioned for him for something 20 years ago,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Well it’s incredible that you remember, but you didn’t hire me, David!’ I just opened this email and it says, ‘The humanity you brought to Marvin is just fantastic. So many moving moments. The show oozes charm and authenticity. I’m so grateful. You really crushed this. Fingers crossed.’ I’m going to frame this.”

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Looking out at the cars driving up to the top of the parking garage at the Grove, Brown said, “You got to do the hair and makeup and come out for this because it’s about the show. Just that they did this for us is amazing.”

Even if it means wearing a mask. “We’ve been shooting this show for three calendar years,” Brown said. “I got to the point where I didn’t know if the show was going to see the light of day, let alone a premiere where you get to be on the rooftop of the Grove. This is insane.”

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