Lights. Camera. Action. Roosevelt!
The library at Roosevelt High School played the role of a classroom in shooting this morning for a new TV comedy series that’s being filmed at the school, with Roosevelt cast as a parochial high school by the name of St. Roman’s.
The first season of Play by Play, a sitcom about a fictional sportscaster in his 40s who works for ESPN, is set in suburban Chicago but is being filmed in Des Moines — primarily at Roosevelt High School. North High School’s Grubb Stadium was used earlier as a location for a football sequence but Roosevelt has been the headquarters of the production. There are trailers parked on the front lawn and equipment trucks in the lots on the south campus. The show’s creator, Kevin Jakubowski, describes it as a coming-of-age story loosely based on his own experience.
Roosevelt has some impressive showbiz chops to its credit. Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman is an alum, for instance, and so is Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show sidekick Steve Higgins. But it was the building itself, not the theatrical pedigree, that landed the school its part.
“Roosevelt has been perfect,” Jakubowski said as a crew of about 40, most of them from southern California where the production company is based, readied Wednesday morning for shooting a scene from a theology class. “Not only has the building been just what we were looking for, a classic Midwestern high school built circa 1920s, but all of the people we’ve dealt with, staff and students alike, have been great to work with.”
Jakubowski is the creator of Nickelodeon’s Legendary Dudas. He has also written for Nickelodeon’s School of Rock and Comedy Central’s Brickleberry. The new show’s executive producer, Kevin Mann, boasts a resume that includes Hello, My Name is Doris, starring Sally Field, and several episodes of ESPN’s 30 for 30.
Call for the cast and crew was bright and early, 7:00 AM, but it was past 9:00 before filming started. Techs were busy setting the scene. Extras reported and had to get into costume, parochial school uniforms, and sign waivers. Props were issued like backpacks and books – even pens and pencils. In front of one bank of books a makeshift breakfast buffet was laid out with bagels, a toaster, peanut butter, jelly, bottled water and juices for cast and crew to nosh. Jakubowski and others worked from ad hoc office space on tables at the back of the library. One table was “RESERVED FOR SCHOOLWORK” according to a sheet of loose leaf notebook paper taped to it.
Student extras for the classroom scene came from a variety of area schools including, fittingly, Dowling, but few among them had speaking parts. One who did was Merrill Middle School 8th grader Noah Anderson.
“I’ve had some prior acting experience,” he said while waiting to be called to the set. “I got this part through a local agency. I play a student named Mr. Lindermeyer.”
“Mr.” because that’s how the teacher in the scene, a bona fide Irishman who found his way here by way of Los Angeles, addresses the students. Right on cue, Noah/Mr. Lindermeyer was called to the head of the class to lead the students in their daily recitation of the “Our Father.”
Play by Play started filming in Des Moines last month and is in its last week of location shooting. The eight-episode series will air next year on Complex Network’s digital-video streaming service, go90, a joint-venture between Verizon and Hearst. When the crew arrived the area was basking in a warmer and longer than usual autumn. The recent plunge of temperatures coupled with the customary anxiety that builds toward the end of a shoot has everybody ready to wrap and head home.
“Yes, we’ve all noticed the change in the weather lately,” Jakubowski said, smiling. “But we’re almost done with our outdoor shoots except for a couple of driving scenes. And we’re right on schedule and right on budget, so I’m not complaining.”
CUT! That’s a wrap – almost.
Look for Roosevelt and North and DMPS in the show’s credits when they roll, probably sometime next spring. And wait until you see the episode about the theology class. We won’t disclose what happens, or even divulge the working title for it. We don’t dare. How’s that for a teaser?