Screen kisses: why actors are now snogging mannequins, mirrors and their own lovers on set


A kiss is just a kiss? James Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo.


Social distancing means real kissing is out. But from EastEnders and Neighbours to The Bold and the Beautiful, there are some innovative and unexpected solutions

Name: Onscreen kisses.
Age: 124, dating back to the 1896 silent film The Kiss.
Appearance: Suddenly really creepy.
Kissing isn’t creepy. I think you’ll find it is, thanks to Covid.
Listen, when a man and a woman love each other very much … They are professionally obliged to remain socially distanced so that the man can get off with a shop dummy undisturbed.
What? You mean you haven’t been watching The Bold and the Beautiful?
No, what’s it about? It’s an American soap opera that trades heavily in romantic storylines. Except the pandemic means that people aren’t allowed to kiss other people. So, instead, actors have been kissing mannequins.
Really? Yes. There’s footage on Twitter. The dummy is shot from behind, but the giveaway is its total rigidity and lack of responsiveness.
So, wait, is everyone on every TV show just going around kissing mannequins?Fortunately not. Several shows have employed different techniques to get around the social-distancing regulations. They don’t kiss mannequins on Neighbours, for example.
Screen time … Clay Milner Russell and Milly Zero on the set of EastEnders.
Screen time … Clay Milner Russell and Milly Zero on the set of EastEnders. Photograph: BBC/Jack Barnes/PA
What do they kiss? Well, according to Neighbours actor Colette Mann, each actor kisses a mirror, and then editing makes it look as if they’re kissing each other.
Is it convincing? I don’t know. I don’t watch Neighbours. I have a job.
What are other shows doing? EastEnders has also come up with a novel solution. It has drafted in the real-life partners of the EastEnders actors to act as body doubles for intimate scenes. So, for example, if someone has to kiss Ian Beale, they’ll actually kiss their husband, who is dressed up like Ian Beale.
Sexy. Hey, if it works, it works. And this is only one step in a long list of Covid-safe guidelinesdeveloped by the BBC, ITV and others. Cast members who have to be in proximity to each other have to be placed in close contact “cohorts” and undergo swab tests before filming starts, with tests retaken each week and temperatures checked every day.
Could they just not kiss instead? They could, but who would watch a soap opera where nobody kissed? That would be like watching a soap opera where someone didn’t die in a horrible grisly accident every Christmas Day.
So kissing mannequins it is then. It seems like it. It looks absolutely ridiculous, but it’s the safest thing that anyone can do right now.
Do say: “Actors now get paid to kiss mannequins.”
Don’t say: “But whenever I do it, I get chucked out of River Island.



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