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Showtime series pilot being shot on Federal Hill
09:26 AM EDT on Friday, September 3, 2004
Journal photo / Bob Thayer
PROVIDENCE -- Yesterday afternoon, an invasion of white trucks and trailers descended on a Federal Hill neighborhood of closely spaced wooden houses.
If you followed the trail of vehicles, you eventually came to a big black Cadillac Escalade, surrounded by people and equipment.
"Rolling . . . rolling . . . rolling. . . shhhhhhh!" someone shouted. Actor Jason Clarke, standing outside the Escalade, leaned his head into the car window and said something to the driver.
Clarke is one of the leads in Brotherhood, the Showtime pilot now filming in Rhode Island.
The plot centers on two brothers, one (Clarke) a politician and the other (Jason Isaacs) on the other side of the law.
The Federal Hill set -- Brotherhood producers asked that the precise location not be revealed -- represents the street where the two brothers grew up.
Elizabeth Stephen, an executive producer for Brotherhood, already knows a thing or two about Providence.
Stephen, who works for Los Angeles production company Mandalay Entertainment, is a 1986 graduate of Brown who majored in theater arts.
She said she shot her student film on the steps of Providence City Hall; Laura Linney, another Brown alumnus, was the star. (Linney, of course, has gone on to considerable fame in such films as Mystic River and Love Actually).
Stephen said Blake Masters, who wrote the script for Brotherhood, came to her company 18 months ago with the idea of making a movie. Stephen, who already had contacts with cable channel Showtime, suggested a TV series.
Masters set the show, originally titled The Hill, in a New England city, but exactly which New England city was open to question. The producers considered Boston for a while before settling on Providence.
"I already knew the city from going to Brown," Stephen said. "I love the flavor, love the diversity, love how colorful it is here."
Wherever Brotherhood was officially set, the original plan was to do most of the filming in Canada, where expenses are lower than in the United States.
But city and state officials, led by Steven Feinberg of the Rhode Island Film & Television Office, persuaded them to shoot the entire pilot in Rhode Island.
"They knew we were struggling with the idea of having to shoot somewhere else, and that would take away from the integrity of the show," Stephen said. "You just aren't going to get the same look in Canada."
No one involved with Brotherhood wants to give too much away about the plot.
Stephen described it in terms of The Godfather -- although she was quick to add that Brotherhood is not trying to imitate the classic Mafia flick.
She said it's as though Michael Corleone had stayed straight and gone into politics, while Sonny Corleone was still running the family business.
Jason Clarke, who starred in the Australian movie Rabbit-Proof Fence, plays the politician brother. Annabeth Gish (X-Files, The West Wing) is his wife and Jason Isaacs (The Patriot, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) is the shady brother.
"These are both very ambitous, strong-willed men," Stephen said.
Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger, The Quiet American) is directing the pilot. Yesterday afternoon, Noyce oversaw the action from his perch just to the side of the black Escalade.
Writer Blake Masters, who grew up in Western Massachusetts and New York City, said his inspirations included the classic political novel All the King's Men and the 1949 movie Force of Evil, about a lawyer who finds himself trapped between his mobster boss and his mobster brother.
Brotherhood is scheduled to shoot in Rhode Island until Sept. 18. Masters said the editing process on the pilot will probably be finished around November 1.
After that, it's up to Showtime, which put up the money for the pilot, to decide whether to pick up the series.
If the answer is yes, Masters said, filming would probably resume sometime in April.
Feinberg is lobbying to keep the show in Providence if Showtime orders more episodes. Everyone involved with Brotherhood appears to want the same thing, but Masters said the decision is up to Showtime.
Meanwhile, Providence Patrolman Frank Furtado, among those providing security on the set, has already landed a small benefit from Brotherhood.
Isaacs, who played the villainous Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, called Furtado's 14-year-old daughter, a big Harry Potter fan. Isaacs did a little bit of the wicked Lucius over the phone.
"It was great," Furtado said. "She got a real kick out of it."
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