Home TVInterviews Interview: Love in the Time of Corona’s Rainey Qualley

Interview: Love in the Time of Corona’s Rainey Qualley

by Leora Heilbronn

Is there anything Rainey Qualley can’t do?! While the rest of us mere mortals have spent our quarantine period mostly binge watching Netflix reality shows, Qualley has released two music videos under her artist name Rainsford (‘2 Cents’ and the star-studded ‘Crying in the Mirror’), filmed the must-see limited series event Love in the time of Corona, and recorded a beautiful single for said program, called, appropriately enough, ‘6 ft. from Love’. While the videos that accompany her autobiographical electro indie-pop songs oscillate between playful and ethereal dreamscapes, her work in the acting realm is consistently mesmerizing. In Love in the time of Corona, acting opposite her real-life close friend Tommy Dorfman, you can’t help but be drawn into her character Elle’s inner sanctum, and that’s all due to Qualley’s undeniably charming and uniquely expressive screen presence.

I recently had the opportunity to chat on the phone with Rainey Qualley and the following is an edited and condensed version of our soul-baring conversation.

Brief Take: Hi, Rainey! How have you been doing these last few months of quarantine? How have you been feeling?

Rainey Qualley: You know, things have been pretty good for me, considering the circumstances. I live with my sister and one of my best friends has moved in with us so I feel very lucky to be with people that I enjoy and love so much. I’ve been able to work and make progress on some stuff and have a good creative outlet. So yeah, not too bad.

BT: You’ve been very busy creatively! Did you go through the whole baking stage and then the binge watching stage and then re-evaluating your life stage of quarantine?

RQ: Oh I’ve done plenty of that too. For sure! [laughs] When it all started, I re-watched every episode of Parks and Recreation, and I’ve been binge watching a lot of silly TV shows. But that’s kind of my comfort thing that I do at night to unwind, but during the day I’ve just been trying to do my best and keeping busy.

BT: So tell me about filming Love in the Time of Corona.

RQ: It was filmed at my friend Tommy’s (Dorfman) house. The story follows four different storylines, essentially and everything was shot within the actors’ real-life homes. For our couple, we shot at Tommy’s place. Tommy and I have been good friends for awhile now and we’d already been in the same quarantine group. So when the project came about, I had a meeting with Joanna Johnson, the director, and the producers, and Tommy was already involved. At this point I didn’t even have the script, I just had an outline of what the project was going to be like, and after the meeting they asked if I wanted to be involved. I thought it was really cool to be shooting something in this time, to be on the forefront of production in that way. And also, I was drawn to the story and I love working with Tommy, he’s so talented and just one of my best friends.

Then during the shooting process, Tommy has that extra room in their house, like an actual apartment, so I stayed there while we were shooting. The whole series shot in four or five days so the hours were pretty intense. [laughs] Essentially, we would wake up, have coffee, shoot all day, then run lines at night and then go to sleep. No one was allowed inside the house except for Tommy and I, and Tommy has a roommate that he’s lived with that they taught how to operate the cameras. We did our own hair and makeup too. Typically on set you’re not allowed to touch the props or touch anything, there are all these rules that you have to obey as far as different departments and not go into anyone else’s territory, but here we were the art department and doing a lot of things that we wouldn’t typically do. That was great and allowed us get a lot more done in a short period of time.

BT: Did Emilio Garcia-Sanchez stay with you as well? 

RQ: No, he stayed at his own house but the entire time we were shooting he never went inside the house. They had a little tent for him outside, same as all the other departments. We had our own place but sound had their own place, there was a little director tent, all those separate tents outside to maintain social distance. There were a lot of precautions in place, but that’s the new normal now.

BT: What was it like collaborating with Tommy as your scene partner?

RQ: It was awesome. Like I said, Tommy has been one of my good friends, and playing best friends with him came pretty naturally. It was fun too because we were able to improvise and play with each other, especially because there’s no one touching you – putting on makeup and adjusting your clothes. There’s not any of that stuff going on inside the house, it’s just he and I. So we felt very relaxed and it felt more like theatre than a typical TV production.

BT: Elle is very relatable. I think a lot of people will relate to her friendship with Oscar and a ton of people have definitely gone on bad dates like the Zoom video one she goes on with the DCU fan. What did you draw on to portray Elle? 

RQ: I think what was great about playing this role is that in a way it was built around us. Like I said, the script hadn’t even been fully written when I had the initial meeting, so Joanna definitely drew on aspects of our personalities in terms of who we are. For example, I play a musician in the show, which I wasn’t expecting, it was a little treat that I got to do a song in the show. Obviously I’m not the same person as Elle, there are differences between the character that I’m playing and who I am.

BT: You mentioned the song that you perform in the show, ‘6 ft. from Love’. Tell me about your experience recording it in quarantine. 

RQ: They had the song written already but the recording process was definitely interesting. For all the music that I write as an artist, I would go over to my best friend’s house who has a studio or my other good friend who has a studio and we would do everything there, and I asked if I could do that for this production but they had very strict rules. Because it was a Disney production, everything had to be strictly regulated so I wasn’t allowed to go and record it at one of my friends’ studios. So they brought a bunch of gear to my house and set up a studio in my basement, which I’d never done before. Then for the sound booth, I taped a bunch of blankets to my ceiling to sing inside of a fort, essentially. [giggles] It was definitely a unique experience for recording. I was proud of myself that I was able to pull it off!

BT: Do you work on your music in that makeshift recording space in your basement now? 

RQ: Well they dropped off all the gear, I recorded the song in a couple of hours, and then someone came and packed it all up. So it was a very temporary studio, but it was fun while it lasted.

BT: Tell me about the making of your ‘Crying in the Mirror’ video.

RQ: That took place really early on in quarantine and I’m so happy we were able to pull it off. I’m so lucky to have friends that were in my quarantine group that wanted to do the project with me. I had written ‘Crying in the Mirror’ about a year and a half ago and I came up with the concept for the video, that I wanted it to be a soap opera version of what actually happened. [laughs] Cara (Delevingne) is one of my best friends and she’s so incredibly talented and has a great artistic vision, so I was really lucky that she wanted to direct it. I’m good friends with Kaia (Gerber) too and she’s so beautiful and such a talented actor, so it came together so easily. We shot it at my house in a day and then Cara and I edited it later that week. I’m thrilled with the result!

BT: How did Gregg Sulkin get involved? 

RQ: I’d known Gregg from before too. We were trying to think “who would be the perfect heartthrob to play opposite Kaia?”. and they look so beautiful together on screen, very dreamy. It’s the dream version of my song.

BT: I loved that your parts in the video are very dream-like in terms of the aesthetic. 

RQ: Thanks! I didn’t want to be in the video too much, I just wanted it to be their story, but I liked the idea of just singing to Kaia through the mirror. In my mind it was like I was helping her through it, like a guardian angel in the mirror kind of thing. I’m really happy with the way it turned out. Similar to Love in the Time of Corona, we used all of my clothes, did our own hair and makeup, just did everything at home. My sister (Margaret Qualley) was crafty, so it was a group of friends coming together to make this project.

BT: Do you have plans to do more of that in the future?

RQ: Yes! I’m shooting another music video on Sunday with my friend Dana (Boulos) who directed the video that came out right before the ‘Crying in the Mirror’ video, the ‘2 Cents’ video. We’re shooting another video on Sunday for my single that’s called “Oh my God”, and also shooting another video the following week that I’m really, really excited about for a song called ‘Love me like you hate me’. My sister and Shia LaBeouf are going to be starring in it, it’ll be directed by Olivia Wilde, and it’s the first video that…every video prior to this I’ve been completely in charge of, running every aspect of it, but for this one my sister has taken the reins and she’s putting the whole team together. She’s doing an incredible job, I’m so excited by what it’s turning into, and that’s going to come out in October.

BT: When you’re writing your music, where do you draw inspiration from? Tell me about your creative process. 

RQ: My songs are very therapeutic in a way. I write primarily about whatever I’m going through, that’s essentially the start of all of my songwriting sessions. I’ll talk to my best friends about what I’m going and they’ll start putting the production together, then I’ll write the lyrics and the melody and kind of work through my experiences.

BT: Who are some of your role models in the acting and music industries, but also in your day-to-day life? 

RQ: My sister is my best friend in the whole world and she’s the most inspiring, amazing person that I know. She’s so smart, giving, and I know it sounds silly to have your little sister be your role model, but she is. She’s my answer to everything. [giggles] Then for music, I love all different kinds of stuff. I love Kate Bush and Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke, all kinds of stuff. I listen to all different types of music.

BT: You mentioned that you’ve been watching a lot of Parks and Recreation. What have you been reading lately? 

RQ: I’ve read a couple of books about reincarnation. I’m not religious in a traditional sense but I’ve been interested in spirituality and a more esoteric spiritual way of looking at the world. For the longest time, I went through this phase for about ten years where I would cry myself to sleep, scared of dying. Reading these books was a relief to me and opened my mind. I’ve been more agnostic, well having a more scientific view of the world, and now I’m open to different ideas. Sorry for ending on a death note! [laughs]

Love in the time of Corona is a two-night Limited Series Event airing Saturday August 22 and Sunday August 23 at 8pm on Freeform

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Brief Take