As if producing a TV show weren't hard enough, a couple weeks ago we got thrown a curveball: Hurricane Sandy. It hit while we were shooting "Lessons Learned," which aired two weeks ago, but we were still dealing with its effects while shooting this week's episode, "Dreams Deferred," creating one of the most unusual, challenging and rewarding shoots I can remember on this job.
First, because we were completely shut down due to the storm, the crew worked on weekends and holidays to make up for lost time. Even then, Chelsea Piers had flooded during the storm, and we couldn't get back into our studio or production office for weeks (you can see how high the water was in these photos - about three to four feet).
But our crew was resourceful. Our writers' room is located in a pocket of Manhattan that for some reason did not lose power, so we moved everything, and I mean everything, in there. It was a little cramped, very noisy, and we didn't have nearly enough phone lines; but it was necessary because even when shooting on location, the production office is essential in coordinating every detail.
Meanwhile, on set, we were scrambling because many of our locations for the episode were no longer available, including the ones we were going to construct in our studio. So we camped out at an amazing-looking church in Washington Heights (also seen last season in "Blood Brothers") and just started finding other locations within walking distance that could replace the ones we'd lost. It was hectic. There were a number of last-minute rewrites, and we battled through a snowstorm; but somehow it all worked perfectly.
Then there was the cold front that came to town after the hurricane.
By this time, we were shooting some scenes in Hunts Point, mostly night
exteriors. So we were there until two and three o'clock in the morning for a
couple of days in a row, and it was COLD. But it was worth it, because these
scenes are some of the best in the episode - they are real "set pieces"
that will stay with you long after the episode is over.
As you can see, by the end of the night, our trash cans were full to the brim with empty coffee cups and hand warmer wrappers.
But by far the most surreal night of shooting was on November 6, Election Day. I voted in the morning, and I knew I might not get home in time to see the results; but I never expected to be watching the returns on mute in a seedy Harlem motel while Ice-T and Kelli Giddish repeatedly ran into the next room to "find" some dead bodies only to ask "Did they call Ohio yet?" every time the camera stopped rolling. "Video village" (where we can watch the monitors) was strategically placed, and it was a popular spot to be that night.
Somehow, our cast and crew not only pulled off the episode, but pulled off one of the best episodes of the year. Kudos to the locations department, the production office staff, everyone who was out on set, and every other department that had to adjust for putting in that extra effort to create an episode to remember. Tune in Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. to find out why. Trust me - it's a good one.
And here's a photo of an uprooted tree that we encountered while shooting, just to prove that I'm not making all this up.