[Warning: The following contains spoilers for HBO’s Coastal Elites! Read at your own risk]
While each of the characters in HBO’s Coastal Elites, a special written by Paul Rudnick and directed by Jay Roach, have poignant moments in their singular monologues, it’s Kaitlyn Dever‘s nurse Sharynn who delivers the most heartbreaking performance. Originally from Wisconsin, Sharynn moved to New York at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help with the city’s overwhelming number of cases. For almost 20 minutes, Dever takes the audience through Sharynn’s experience at a local New York hospital and the despair she feels after losing a particularly vibrant and inspiring patient, who viewers eventually realize was played by Bette Midler in the special’s opening speech.
“This character connects with so many people, and Miriam had such an impact on her emotionally and politically,” Dever told TV Guide of of tackling the monologue. “[Healthcare workers] are connecting with people every day and creating these relationships with their patients, and then they’re gone, which is just get insanely tragic.”
While Sharynn was overcome with grief, it was important for Dever and director Jay Roach to bring some levity to the monologue and hit every note correctly, especially with it only being Dever in front of the camera and there not being anywhere else to cut to. The pressure was extra high for the young actress, who was determined to give a faithful performance in honor of the people on the front lines of an unprecedented crisis.
“I think the main thing that [Jay Roach and I] both picked up on by by watching actual COVID-19 nurses do their own sort of video diaries is that they’ve gone through so much heartbreak and there’s so much pain that is involved in doing this kind of job. These people are our real life heroes,” she explained. “The insane amount of exhaustion that these that these people have and yet they still carry on, and they still push through because that’s the job. They do it because they love it and I think that that is so, so powerful. I just really want to make sure I was doing that right.”
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If Dever is successful, she hopes that her part in Coastal Elites helps the audience connect to people like Sharynn who are putting their lives on the line every day to keep America safe. Rather than the chaotic discourse happening across the internet as people struggle with the uncertainty that has defined 2020, Coastal Elites aims to begin real conversations. For Dever, she just wants people to be able to connect with her and Sharynn.
“One of the many purposes of this piece was to be able to talk about our frustration [with] the world right now and maybe make people connect to these these human beings in some kind of deeper way,” she said. “I think it’s so incredible how close we are to all of these characters.”
Coastal Elites is now streaming on HBO and HBO Max.
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