Maggie's Cafe gins up setting for TV drama
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 Café 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 café 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.
“[Outside] people see this as fun, but the people here are under a lot of pressure,” she said. “Every day is a pressure day.” ••