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‘Normal for Now’

Amazon Prime Video  series shows  West Virginians dealing with quarantine

by Olivia Murray 

A group of Appalachians have created a four-part anthology television series that details the reality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic for a diverse group of fictional West Virginians.

The program,  “Normal for Now,” takes place over the course of a single day in COVID-19 quarantine and was developed and filmed in Huntington. All of the main characters featured in the series are people of color and/or part of the LGBTQ+ community in addition to living in West Virginia.

The actors and crew involved in the project are from the Appalachian region.

Afsheen Misaghi, credited as creator, director, co-writer and co-producer of the series, said having an inclusive cast and crew with backgrounds in Appalachia was especially important to the creators of the series.

“For too long, Appalachians have been represented as backwoods, incapable and homogenous. We aim to portray a more authentic collection of Appalachian stories that highlight our community’s creativity, diversity and ability,” Misaghi said.

Misaghi was born in Lewisburg and is a WVU alum. Misaghi’s mother was born in Pakistan and his father was born in India, though both have roots in Iran. His parents also attended WVU.

Despite having been born and raised in West Virginia, Misaghi said he has frequently been met with disbelief when revealing his status as an Appalachian native to strangers.

“I don’t fit the [idea] of what most people would think is a West Virginian or an Appalachian because of how I look and the color of my skin, which is so crazy for me, because that’s the biggest thing I identify as, is West Virginian, Appalachian,” Misaghi said.

The conception of the project came in August 2020 and it was filmed in late September. Editing, music and minor virtual effects were added over the course of three months post-filming. The series was accepted by Amazon to its streaming platform, Prime Video, in December.

Misaghi said his personal experiences with misinformed or negative stereotypes surrounding Appalachians, as well as those tied to his familial background,  contributed to the content of the television series.

According to Misaghi, creators wanted to explore the overarching issue of how younger people are coping with the issues and intricacies that accompany the COVID-19 pandemic, while providing Appalachian minorities with characters that are representative of them and that they could relate to on an emotional level.

“We made it very specific to West Virginia, but at the same time we made the stories and the emotions and the plots … all the issues and the drama, whatever that might be, of each of the episodes to be something that, no matter where you are in the U.S., you could really understand and empathize with it,” Misaghi said.

Misaghi was not only inspired by his own experiences growing up in Appalachia and the hardships of coping with stereotypes and the pandemic, but also by the lack of realistic film and television portrayals of individuals trying to survive and maintain normalcy during COVID-19.

“I feel like up to this point, a lot of the content and a lot of the references or whatever you might see online about the pandemic was either like a horror film — trying to scare you about the pandemic, or use the pandemic for fear, or it was trying to make satire or parodies — but in reality, we want to kind of explore what the emotional side of things are. At the end of the day it’s a lot of isolation, a lot of loneliness, it’s a lot of fear … but there’s also moments of joy,” Misaghi said.

Misaghi believes “Normal for Now” is groundbreaking, in a way. While Misaghi acknowledged there are documentaries and non-fiction media  that tell the stories of minorities living in Appalachia, he said those Appalachian minorities very rarely receive representation in the realm of fiction.

“I’ve never seen anything in the dramatic space, like a television show or movie, that shows diversity in a subtle way in West Virginia,” Misaghi said.

Misaghi said he and his team worked to ensure the communities represented in the series — people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals and Appalachians — were portrayed extensively, authentically and accurately.

“We wanted to create something that people will not only watch and enjoy, but they can also relate and start to empathize with, and hopefully both consciously and subconsciously, they’ll [think], ‘Oh, I see myself exactly in this, in their situations,’ ” Misaghi said.

Misaghi is working on developing a late-night talk show,  “15 Minutes Late,” with “Normal for Now” co-director, co-writer and co-producer Nate Cesco. The show will incorporate research, comedy and guest interviews. It is set to debut within the next month.

Misaghi and his partners have also written a movie script chronicling the life of a Black Appalachian country singer fighting for fame. The team is working on accumulating the funding to begin work on the project.

“Normal for Now” can be viewed exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.

For more information on the series, visit or @latelandmedia on Instagram and Twitter.

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