Maggie's Cafe gins up setting for TV drama

An un­fa­mil­i­ar scene took place out­side of Mag­gies Wa­ter­front Cafe on Delaware Av­en­ue in the North­east Thursday. The loc­al bar was used as a shoot loc­a­tion for a new NBC series to air early next year. (Brad Lar­ris­on)


Maybe North­east Phil­adelphia doesn’t know how to re­ceive a vis­it from a big-time net­work tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion. Or maybe the NBC series Do No Harm simply doesn’t have much of a buzz go­ing for it.

Whatever the reas­on, pub­lic at­ten­tion was vir­tu­ally non-ex­ist­ent at Mag­gie’s Wa­ter­front Caf&ea­cute; on Aug. 23 when about 100 cast and crew from the forth­com­ing med­ic­al drama used the East Tor­res­dale tap­room as a back­drop for a film­ing ses­sion.

From the early morn­ing set-up to an early af­ter­noon break­down, maybe 20 on­look­ers wandered with­in shout­ing dis­tance of the shoot. Most were lunch­time pat­rons look­ing for a bite, only to be turned away by the apo­lo­get­ic but en­thu­si­ast­ic Mag­gie’s pro­pri­et­or, Kev­in Good­child.

Nobody really bothered to stick around for a peek at the ac­tion.

After all, it wasn’t An­gelina Jolie or Scar­lett Jo­hans­son wait­ing on tables in­side, por­tray­ing the ex-wife of the series’ lead char­ac­ter, a Je­kyll and Hyde fig­ure named Dr. Jason Cole (or Mr. Ian Price if you prefer to identi­fy him by his al­ter ego).

Rather, the star power on-hand began and prob­ably ended with a 29-year-old Lithuani­an-Brit called Ruta Ged­mintas, a tall, un­der­fed blonde known mostly for her pro­lif­ic ca­reer on the Eng­lish telly.

Series reg­u­lars who ap­par­ently did not take part in the Mag­gie’s shoot in­cluded the lead, Steven Pasquale, who pre­vi­ously played op­pos­ite Den­nis Leary in the pop­u­lar fire­fight­er drama on FX Res­cue Me; Alana De La Gar­za of Law & Or­der and CSI: Miami fame; as well as Clair Huxtable her­self, Phyli­cia Rashad.

For those who missed the an­nu­al “up­fronts” last spring — that’s when the TV net­works an­nounce which new series they’ll de­but dur­ing the fol­low­ing fall sea­son — Do No Harm chron­icles the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of Dr. Cole, a highly re­spec­ted brain sur­geon with a ma­jor char­ac­ter flaw. Every night at the same hour, he trans­forms in­to Mr. Price, who the show’s Web site de­scribes as “se­duct­ive, de­vi­ous and bor­der­line so­ciopath­ic.”

Thanks to an ex­per­i­ment­al sed­at­ive that he self-ad­min­is­ters, Cole has been able to keep Price in check. But the good doc­tor has built a tol­er­ance for the med­ic­a­tion, al­low­ing the long-sup­pressed Price to re-emerge with a ven­geance.

Nan Bern­stein, the show’s pro­du­cer, told the North­east Times that the pro­gram is sup­posed to air on Sunday nights. A start date has not been an­nounced. The net­work has ordered 13 epis­odes, which are be­ing filmed mostly in Down­town Philly.

Ac­cord­ing to as­sist­ant loc­a­tion man­ager, West Philly nat­ive and Temple gradu­ate Jason Mc­Cauley, the show’s pro­duc­tion team was look­ing for a sub­urb­an-like set­ting for the se­quences fea­tur­ing Ged­mintas, which should ap­pear in the first broad­cast epis­ode. Ged­mintas’ char­ac­ter is sup­posed to be a wait­ress in Cherry Hill, or maybe Prin­ceton. Non­ethe­less, Mag­gie’s fit the part with its well-main­tained bar and din­ing areas and its river views.

Good­child, the caf&ea­cute; own­er, is hop­ing for something of a Cheers ef­fect when the foot­age fi­nally hits the air.

“Even if it’s only one shot, they re­play TV shows [in re­runs],” he said.

It won’t be the first time Mag­gie’s has made it onto the small screen. When Good­child first took over the busi­ness and re­named it about four years ago, the Dis­cov­ery chan­nel con­tac­ted him about film­ing some dramat­iz­a­tions for a doc­u­ment­ary on a mo­tor­cycle gang as­so­ci­ate who be­came a gov­ern­ment in­form­ant.

“A lot of people called me and said they saw Mag­gie’s in the back­ground,” Good­child said.

For­tu­nately, no dis­gruntled bikers showed up look­ing for the stool pi­geon.

Good­child was more than happy to shut down for a week­day in ex­change for the pos­sib­il­ity of some na­tion­al pub­li­city, along with an un­dis­closed fee. In a Hol­ly­wood-style suc­cess story, a pro­du­cer simply walked in­to the place one day and offered the gig.

“We only knew about it two weeks pri­or and gave our cus­tom­ers a week’s no­tice,” Good­child said.

It’s un­known if the show will keep the bar’s name, Mag­gie’s, or call the place something else.

Dur­ing film­ing, light­ing equip­ment and oth­er gad­gets oc­cu­pied most of the front patio, while dir­ect­or Mi­chael May­er, cast and crew did most of their work in­side the es­tab­lish­ment.

When a lone news­pa­per pho­to­graph­er tried to take some ex­ter­i­or shots of the place, Bern­stein emerged arms wav­ing and voice crack­ling to ad­mon­ish the in­ter­loper. She later ex­plained that she feared for paparazzi. And the dir­ect­or wouldn’t ap­pre­ci­ate see­ing a ran­dom news pho­to­graph­er pop­ping up in the back­ground of a scene.

ldquo;[Out­side] people see this as fun, but the people here are un­der a lot of pres­sure,” she said. “Every day is a pres­sure day.” ••


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