Posted on Tue, Aug. 27, 2002
Philadelphia Daily News
By Ellen Gray
THE TINY block of Hollywood Street that spills into Dickinson in Grays Ferry wouldn't generally be mistaken for its famous West Coast cousin, but on Friday afternoon, it was as good a place as any to catch a glimpse of the lights, camera and action that accompany CBS's "Hack" wherever it goes these days in Philadelphia.
St. Gabriel's Roman Catholic Church has been cast as St. Vincent's, the home base of one of the new fall drama's major players, Father Tom "Grizz" Grzelak (George Dzundza). But as the sixth day of shooting on an eight-day episode got under way shortly before 3 p.m., all eyes - including those of some of the nuns who live across the street - were on star David Morse, who plays a disgraced cop-turned-cabdriver named Mike Olshansky, and on Andre Braugher ("Homicide: Life on the Street"), who plays his ex-partner, Marcellus Washington.
Over and over, Morse and a young woman would stride up the walk to the parish rectory, only to return 30 seconds later, accompanied by Braugher, who handcuffed Morse.
The minute-long scene was actually two scenes, the bread in a sandwich whose meat would be another scene filmed inside the rectory.
It was in its way an example of efficiency in a production that needs every bit it can muster, shooting as it does in locations all over town, with each move requiring an army of crew people to set up trailers, lights and cameras.
"There's no show like this. There's no show that's seven days out" in the elements, said executive producer Gavin Polone, who's anxious to see the show's first fixed set - a diner that's being built inside the old Civic Center - get up and running, if only so they'll have a place to shoot out of the rain.
Morse, a Philadelphia-based actor who's been working 14- to 16-hour days since filming began July 25, is also pinning some of his hopes on the Civic Center, but said it's "not realistic" to think that a more efficient production will shorten the work day.
"It is what I expected, but that doesn't prepare you for the hours. It's hard on everybody, it's not me. I mean, the crew it's even harder for - they're here more hours than I am. I just happen to be the one who's on camera and have to hopefully not look as tired as we all feel. But that's the deal. That's what this kind of work is. I knew it when I said yes" to the series, he said.
Besides, shooting on location is fun, he said.
"To have the sisters over there," he said, gesturing toward the convent across the street, "it's a blast for them and the other people on the street. You know you're in people's neighborhoods and for the most part everybody's having a good time."
Morse himself seems to be having a particularly good time with Braugher.
"I love - love - working with him," he said. "He's just one of the finest people and finest actors that I've been lucky enough to work with."
For his part, Braugher, who two seasons ago headlined his own series, "Gideon's Crossing," said he's glad to be "supporting David" because "I have a lot of domestic obligations back in [north] Jersey," where he lives with his wife and their two sons.
Braugher worked for five seasons on "Homicide," which filmed on location in Baltimore, its chief set an old building in Fells Point that was converted into the show's police station. By contrast, he said, "Hack" is "a show without a home."
"On 'Homicide,' we did 12-hour days, so I think we have to discover some productivity gains," he said, laughing, "so we can lop off four hours in the course of the day."
"Homicide's" differences went beyond the set, he noted.
"It was a seven-day shoot, handheld 16mm camera. It was very, very fast, but fast is also very good. The beauty of fast [is]...you don't have the luxury of stopping and lighting. It's very rough. Even the whole vanity of patting everybody down [after a scene] - I mean, we're meant to be rough and sweaty, we're meant to be a slice of America rather than pampered...New York [TV] cops."
You'll hear no complaints, though, from Adrienne Bearden, the show's key - or chief - makeup artist, whose job includes making sure Braugher and his fellow actors look the way they're supposed to.
The West Chester native describes hers as "the coolest job, because I get to hang out with the actors all day."
More important, it's a career-stretcher, proving to other directors who work in Philadelphia that the local craft people are capable, she said. Plus, "I'm using to doing pretty-girl makeup," she said. Here, "I get to do track marks, blood...it's like playland to me."
Morse's insistence that he'd only take the role if the show were filmed in Philadelphia means Bearden, who worked for a few years in Los Angeles before coming home because "I missed my family too much," gets to sleep in her own bed at night.
Before "Hack," she worked mostly in local films and commercials or traveled to find jobs, including one doing makeup for the Lifetime show, "Denise Austin's Daily Workout."
"I was away a lot," she said.
"When 'Hack' came along, I was psyched," she said. Though many of the show's crew comes from New York, her whole crew is local, she said. "We thank David every day, because without him, we wouldn't be here."
You can reach Ellen Gray by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,