Hollywood’s giving you another chance, Washington — don’t blow it!
Cast and crew for “The Firm” — a new TV series based on the old John Grisham book and movie — rolled into town for a few days of shooting this week. Star Josh Lucas — stepping into the Tom Cruise role as lawyer Mitch McDeere — filmed take after take at the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday, running down the steps in suit and tie with the bad guys in pursuit. One of the villains slipped and fell, in an unscripted blooper. Dozens of tourists milled around on the gorgeous pre-fall afternoon. Most of them turned out to be extras. The real-life tourists got shooed out of the shot by the crew, but few of them seemed to recognize Lucas. (C’mon, remember “Sweet Home Alabama”?)
The show, set to air on NBC this winter as a mid-season replacement, picks up the McDeere story as he and his family emerge from a decade in the witness protection they entered after he brought down his evil law firm. Where else does a lawyer go to, you know, blend in? D.C., duh.
Thus far, though, most of the series is being filmed in Toronto — Hollywood’s frequent low-cost stand-in for U.S. East Coast cities. It’s been five years since “The West Wing” — the last TV series set in D.C. and filmed extensively here — went off the air. Since then, a slew of Beltway-themed pilots developed amid the excitement of the Obama inauguration failed to get picked up. And the few D.C.-set shows that have taken off — “NCIS,” “Bones” — are mostly filmed in SoCal, a couple of monuments spliced in for cheap flavor.
In the ongoing push to lure the money and jobs of TV production, the D.C. Film Office has “targeted shows that are supposedly set in D.C. but filmed somewhere else,” said director Crystal Palmer. She accompanied Mayor Vincent Gray on a recent trip to Los Angeles to talk up the virtues of a bona fide Washington backdrop to movie and TV execs.
“We learned a lot about things we do well,” she said, “and things we can do better.” Unlike many other cities and states, D.C. doesn’t have tax breaks or other financial incentives to offer production teams, so “we’re trying to offer them better accessibility to key locations.”
Palmer said that they’re working on trying to get “NCIS” to come to town, and they’re thrilled that “Covert Affairs” — USA Network’s series about an adorable CIA operative — has left its Toronto base for a few D.C. shoots. Gray will continue his charm offensive with a visit to the set of “The Firm” on Wednesday. “We’re discussing having them come back more,” Palmer said.
Read earlier: “Transformers”: What did it do for D.C.?, 6/30/11