Older gentlemen playing bridge at the Oak Park Arms is nothing out of the ordinary – unless, of course, they are Hollywood actors.
A patio room in the quaint retirement home was transformed into a television-show set earlier this month for the filming of the new ABC legal drama, “Doubt.”
The pilot episode by David Shore, creator of the hit program “House,” is being shot in and around Chicago over a two-week period. Thomas Schlamme serves as the director; he was the producer of “The West Wing.”
Assistant location manager Jim Turner came across the Arms when scouting interesting buildings. He said the “warm, worn-away” look of the one-time luxury hotel turned out to be an ideal setting for an old-timers’ evening card game.
It helped that the community’s staff welcomed the production crew with open arms, Turner added.
Jill Wagner, marketing director for the Arms, said the filming April 4 created a buzz amongst residents.
“That is the joke as I’m walking about the building – that they need them as extras,” she said. “It was a really nice experience.”
To prepare for the scene, a set-design team hung fake posters, removed chandeliers, rearranged furniture, and pulled a black grand piano into the room. Other than that, the Arms’ signature red-and-beige décor remains on display for when the show’s lead character, a cop-turned-lawyer played by Steve Coogan, visits the retirement community to seek the seniors’ wise advice.
“It’s a rich character scene,” said Liz Goldsmith, an assistant location manager. “(Coogan’s character) has a heart but doesn’t want to admit it.”
Actors and members of the production crew arrived at the Arms after 7 p.m., and wrapped up around 2:30 a.m.
Having patronized the Arms for two decades, Frank Schaben sees how the retirement home has a certain cinematic charm.
“I like this place,” he said. “It’s nice.”
The TV shoot wasn’t the first time a film crew had stationed itself in his place of residency. Prior to moving to the Arms last year, he lived most of his 51 years in Oak Park in a six-bedroom, Queen Anne-style home.
Schaben said imperfect glass windows in the 110-year house attracted an advertising agency looking to film a commercial for a telephone company.
Two days of shooting resulted in a 15-second television spot. Neighbors’ houses also have been featured in ads, he said.
Goldsmith and Turner said Oak Park has served as the backdrop for plenty of commercials. The Arms is the only place in town where “Doubt” is being filmed, but the odds of getting future airtime are in the village’s favor.
“It’s a film-friendly suburb, for sure,” Goldsmith said.
By Natasha Wasinski, Contributor
Oak Leaves – April 11, 2013