Shooting Providence in Warwick

Wednesday, October 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Cast of the NBC show make the scene at Aldrich Mansion

By Andy Smith / The Providence (R.I.) Journal

First Meet Joe Black , and now Providence. The Aldrich Mansion in Warwick has been host to some mighty fancy company.

Yesterday morning, the circular drive in front of the mansion was lined with a small fortune's worth of cars -- a 1937 Rolls-Royce, a 1959 Jaguar, various Porsches and stretch limos.

"The cars are the stars," pronounced Betty Pensavalle, of Touch of Class Limousine Service, the North Attleboro company that supplied the vintage autos for the production.

Maybe so, but there were real stars just a few feet away, where Melina Kanakaredes and Concetta Tomei were rehearsing under the watchful eye of director Mike Fresco.

Kanakaredes, who plays the lead on Providence , held a cup of coffee and wore a long, heavy coat against the morning's chill while Fresco showed her and Tomei how he wanted them to walk toward the mansion. Coming from the mansion to greet them was actress Tippi Hedren.

On Providence , which begins its third season Friday night on NBC, Kanakaredes's character, Dr. Sydney Hansen, will have a new love interest, a handsome physical therapist played by Rob Estes.

Turns out that his family is filthy rich -- so rich that their house looks remarkably like the Aldrich Mansion.

Hedren, probably best known for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's classic The Birds, plays his mom.

"I'm the reason they break up," said Hedren, who will be on Providence for two episodes. "I'm a very controlling woman."

When it came time to play the scene, Kanakaredes changed her heavy coat for a light one, and ditched her comfortable shoes for high heels. Then she peered at a nearby crew member.

"I can't believe you're wearing a short-sleeved Hawaiian shirt -- you make me look like such a wuss!" she said.

As Fresco watched the action on a small video monitor, Kanakaredes and Tomei greeted Hedren in front of the mansion and had a brief conversation. They did it again. And again. And again.

Then the crew turned the camera around and did the scene again, and again, and again . . .

That's how TV shows get made.

Providing the human backdrop were extras such as Russell Parascandolo. Wearing khakis and a double-breasted blue blazer, Parascandolo played one of the blue bloods hanging around the mansion. (His family actually owns a seafood business in Newport.)

Parascandolo had been on the set since 7 a.m. "It's a little bit chilly, but I'm having a lot of fun," he said.

Most of Providence is shot in Los Angeles, but the show comes to Rhode Island twice a year to catch some authentic local atmosphere. The scenes shot this week will appear in five or six upcoming episodes.

"Shooting here adds a visual definition to the show, so it doesn't look like every other show done in Los Angeles," said executive producer Bob DeLaurentis.

"On a more philosophical level, it gives our cast a chance to touch the city, the home base. It keeps it real, helps keep us on our game. It would be odd not to come here."

John Masius, the creator of Providence , just seemed happy it wasn't raining at the Aldrich Mansion yesterday.

Tomei, who plays Syd Hansen's technically-dead-but-all-too-present mother, only had a half-day's work in Rhode Island, so after her scenes were finished she was on her way to New York City to see some theater.

First, though, she obliged several fans who wanted her picture. Tomei even removed her coat to show off the trademark green dress she has to wear in every scene. (No wardrobe changes for the dead.)

Tomei told her fans that Providence has 12 copies of that dress.

Estes, formerly of Melrose Place and Silk Stalkings and now Kanakaredes's new guy, turned the Providence shoot into a family affair.

He and wife Josie Bissett, another Melrose Place alumnus, played with their 14-month-old son, Mason, on the set yesterday.

And his parents, Marie and Larry Estes, drove from their home in Midland, Mich., for a family reunion, stopping to check out the New England color on the way.

Bissett has a book of parenting tips -- "advice from real parents" -- called Little Bits of Wisdom coming out in April.

In the meantime, Estes and Bisset can talk babies with Kanakaredes, who is traveling with her five-month-old daughter, Zoe.

Estes had high praise for Providence:

"The writing here is much better than it was on Melrose Place . It picks the moments really well," he said. "Honest moments, instead of the dramatic, overblown moments on Melrose."

And he actually relished the cool weather.

"If we had warm weather we'd be very disappointed," he said. "We wanted to have some fall. The trouble with living in L.A. is there's no fall -- no change of leaves, no change of temperature."

After shooting at the front of the Aldrich Mansion in the morning, cast and crew moved around to the back of the house, which commands a superb view of Narragansett Bay. On the terrace, Dr. Hansen met her therapist and his aristocratic mom for lunch.

"We looked at a lot of different locations, including some of the mansions in Newport," said director Fresco. "This just worked best for us. The house is beautiful, and the grounds are superb. For what we're looking for, it's perfect."