"You got a job? Great!"
"Part-time, for my brother."
"Oh, the congressman, the other big hero."
"Wally, what have you got against your own brother?"
"I don't know . . . he's just, he's just so . . . perfect."
A soap opera about life in Washington may seem redundant, but that's exactly where these lines come from: "Capitol," Hollywood's latest attempt to capture the drama, the intrigue, the passion--real or imagined--of the nation's capital, and dole it out to a hungry middle America.
So to make it real for an increasingly insatiable audience, a stage crew of about 100 people from John Conboy Productions and CBS is here to shoot the exterior scenes. They arrived last week and for the next 10 days or so will be working at Georgetown University and Hospital, two private homes in Maryland, in the Virginia countryside and on the Capitol steps. By the time they leave, about 80 percent of the premiere--a one-hour special to air March 26--should be completed, as well as portions of future programs.
At this point, they're more into action than dialogue--fist-fighting, jogging, and horseback riding, but Washington is into talking and this is the way they talk in "Capitol":
" . . . Well, I've got a reception tonight for a big hero . . ."
"You mean big brother, don't you?"
"A big pain in the ear is what I really mean."
"It's getting there," director Corey Allen said to Bill Beyers and Kimberly Beck-Hilton, who play two students at "National University," as they rehearsed a scene on the first day of shooting.
Beck-Hilton plays sweet and lovely Julie, the only decent member of the evil Clegg clan--wealthy and powerful, but unscrupulous and responsible for the demise of grandfather McCandless. Beyers plays Wally, the youngest of four sons and the black sheep of the equally dominant McCandless family; he's rebelling against the conventional life plotted out for him. Wally loves Julie, but Julie loves Tyler, his oldest brother. And Tyler loves Julie back, but theirs is a star-crossed love story since their families are bitter rivals. And Wally, Wally is Unrequited.
"You do live dangerously." (She touches the bruise on Wally's face.)
"Look, I don't want to talk about that . . . maybe later we could do some dinner and dancing?"
He's playing it tough, but Wally has just been pounded by thugs. It happened on his way to class, on the slope above the Potomac that leads up to the university. And it took CBS/Conboy all morning to finish the scene. There was the cold, damp wind off the river that the newly arrived Californians had a tough time adjusting to. Then someone discovered that the stunt man didn't have the same color shoes as Beyers did and so they found a pair of beige socks to pull over them. Then all the rocks and garbage had to be cleared so the stunt man wouldn't hurt himself needlessly; and then the stunt man practiced falling. Then came the screech of tires and a loud crash and everyone ran to look, some thinking it was part of the script, only to witness a car accident down on M Street. Then they carried the lights, the camera and the action--rehearsed again and again--down the hill and finally, about four hours later, shot the scene.
Beyers, who has been ill, vomited and fainted.
So they rushed him to the hospital and everyone else broke for lunch, an ad lib episode in the mini-drama of a day's shooting.
"Capitol" will premiere during prime time on a Friday before starting its daily, 30-minute run.
Conboy approached CBS with plans for a daytime serial set in the nation's capital about a year and a half ago and "they loved the idea."
"Capitol" also involves some elaborate sets being built in Hollywood to simulate a Virginia mansion, a Georgetown town house and a hospital. That way Conboy can limit future shoots in D.C. to "four times a year, to catch up with the seasons."
As for the actors, Beck-Hilton received an Emmy nomination for her appearance in "Rich Man, Poor Man"; Rory Calhoun ("Motel Hell") has been cast as the wise but bitter McCandless grandfather; Constance Towers ("The King and I") will portary his kind and generous widowed daughter-in-law; and Carolyn Jones ("The Addams Family") will play the wicked scheming matriarch of the Cleggs.
Meanwhile, back on location, the soap opera of making a soap opera resumed. A large part of the process seemed like a cycle of feasting and filming. An occasional passing student, wondering at the cold-weather picnic amid the camera and sound gear, would stop and ask, "What's going on?" The nonchalant reply: "Oh, we're making a TV show."