USA Network films pilot on the Hamptons - 27 East

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USA Network films pilot on the Hamptons

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author on Sep 8, 2008

Rubbernecking was the principal order of business on Main Street in Southampton Village on Monday morning, as drivers peered at the loosely organized chaos in front of Village Hall.

With black canopies set up on the sidewalk and dozens of workers moving around with walkie-talkies occasionally squawking on their belts, it was not immediately clear what was going on. The appearance of a man in camouflage shorts who seemed to be wearing a proton pack from “Ghostbusters” only added to the confusion, until an adjacent cameraman manning some expensive equipment made it clear that something was being filmed outside Village Hall, and there was no ectoplasm being hunted by members of Dan Ackroyd’s crew.

Director Jace Alexander and a few dozen crew members set up on Main Street to shoot a scene for “Royal Pains,” a pilot the USA cable network hopes will evolve into a new series to complement its prime-time lineup fixtures, “Monk” and “Psych.” Last year, Mr. Alexander filmed the pilot of “Burn Notice,” which is now in its second season on USA. His other directorial credits include “Rescue Me” and “Law & Order.”

“Royal Pains” stars Mark Feuerstein as a successful New York City emergency room doctor, Hank Lawson, who loses it all after one “fateful and principled decision in the ER,” according to NBC Universal, USA’s parent company.

Dr. Lawson accidentally resuscitates his flat-lining career after he crashes a Hamptons party and saves an ailing guest from a medical emergency. The next thing he knows, he is the on-call doc for the rich and famous. Mr. Feuerstein starred in the NBC sitcom “Good Morning, Miami” and he had a recurring role on “The West Wing.”

In the scene filmed Monday, the good doctor was consulting with high-society matron Mrs. Newberg on a “medical” problem: one of her breast implants had deflated a bit, leaving her chest lopsided. As Dr. Lawson delicately assesses the situation, she looks like a “high society circus-freak.”

Rather than replacing Mrs. Newberg’s implant, the creative Dr. Lawson and his assistant Divya Sharma offer a simpler solution: “If we can’t refill the flat tire ...,” one says, “We can just flatten the other one,” the other responds.

Save for the full-length fur coat she was wearing in 75-degree summer weather, veteran actress Christine Ebersole looked perfectly in place in Southampton Village as Mrs. Newberg.

Mrs. Newberg is typical of the clientele Dr. Lawson finds himself serving, once his would-be sidekick—physician’s assistant Ms. Sharma, played by newcomer Reshma Shetty—convinces him to set up shop in the Hamptons. According to plot points outlined in the casting call seeking to fill the role of Ms. Sharma, Dr. Lawson had no intention of becoming a “concierge physician” in the Hamptons, but Sharma pushes him into it after hearing about his save at the party.

The hapless physician also gets some prodding from his brother, Evan, played by Paulo Costanzo, the co-star of “Friends” spinoff, “Joey.” Evan joined his brother on the strolling consultation with Mrs. Newberg shot Monday on Main Street, one of many scenes being shot on location in the Hamptons.

After wrapping on Main Street, the “Royal Pains” crew moved on to shoot a drive-by of Rogers Memorial Library, which will be dressed as a hotel for the purposes of the show, said Sam Gomez, a “Royal Pains” location manager. A sign reading “West Wind Hotel” was placed over the Rogers Memorial Library marker familiar to Southampton residents, and extras played croquet on the lawn facing Windmill Lane to make the library look more like a high-end hotel.

Mr. Gomez said there would also be a scene at a Bridgehampton beach house.

The shooting schedule also called for a scene at the village’s Meadow Lane helipad to be shot on Friday, September 5, but that was cancelled, said Eileen Musarra, deputy village clerk. There are also plans to film in private homes, but the village does not issue permits for that, she said.

The village permit rate for film and photography is $500 per day, Ms. Musarra said, explaining that the permits are usually issued for catalogue shoots. Because “Royal Pains” is a bigger undertaking than a catalogue, USA will pay a larger sum to make up for the inconvenience to the village, she said. Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said the sum was closer to $2,500 for the day. USA also wanted to use more of Main Street and Jobs Lane, but the village had the network scale down its plan to a more isolated stretch of Main Street, he said.

Two police officers were on duty at the site on Monday, keeping watch and preventing cars from parking in front of Village Hall. On top of the permit fees, USA will need to pay for police overtime, Ms. Musarra said.

The “Royal Pains” pilot will also feature Jill Flint (“Gossip Girl”); Campbell Scott (“Six Degrees”); and Adriane Lennox (“Lipstick Jungle,” “Black Snake Moan”).

The show’s producers will film a few more scenes on the East End this month, and also plan to shoot an upscale party in Huntington and other scenes in Manhattan and Queens, according to Grant Wilfley Casting.

The pilot is only one of the first steps in the long road to the creation of a television series. After the pilot is edited, it will be reviewed along with scripts for new episodes and be tested in front of focus groups, which could take a couple months or a year. If successful, the pilot will become the first episode of a new series. If not, USA may air the pilot anyway as a stand-alone program.

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