Until shooting on its final season wrapped in December, NBC’s “30 Rock” had the distinction of being the only broadcast network comedy series filming in New York. A few cable comedies shoot and cast in the Big Apple, including HBO’s “Girls” and FX’s “Louie.” But as far as broadcast comedies go—or went, anyway—“30 Rock” was the only game in town.
However, two network comedy pilots are already slated to shoot in New York in the coming weeks—a 200 percent increase over last pilot season, when every single broadcast-net comedy pilot shot in Los Angeles.
CBS’s untitled project starring comedian Jim Gaffigan is set to start shooting in March, with casting director Marc Hirschfeld overseeing casting in both New York and Los Angeles. And NBC’s untitled family comedy starring Michael J. Fox began shooting Jan. 30, with New York–based Jennifer Euston handling casting. (The NBC project has received a 22-episode order, but production on the other episodes won’t begin until the spring.)
Other possible New York comedy-pilot shoots include a Fox project starring Andy Samberg and Terry Crews as NYPD detectives, and NBC’s untitled project written by and starring “Saturday Night Live” writer and standup comedian John Mulaney.
According to Marci Phillips, ABC Entertainment’s executive director of primetime casting, East Coast, the decision to shoot most comedy pilots in Los Angeles comes down to logistics and money. Since the studios, networks, and most producers are based in L.A., it’s just easier. It’s also cheaper, but generous tax credits enacted over the past few years in New York have attracted many productions to the state. “The tax incentives have made New York a more viable option for pilots and series,” says Phillips. “So the optimistic outlook is that this will not only continue but escalate.”
New York actors have always had opportunities to land roles in pilots even if they aren’t shot locally. For pilots that shoot in L.A., the networks will have an exec like Phillips handle auditions on the East Coast while an independent casting director sifts through the larger pool out West. Phillips insists that New York actors “have just as good a shot as the L.A. actors, no matter where the show is shot.
“Networks are smart enough to realize that New York has an insanely great acting pool and an insanely great pool of comedic talent, so they’re always looking here,” she says.
Even so, more comedy pilots shooting in New York should be seen as a boon for local talent, since the prospect of those projects getting ordered to series would mean greater opportunities for East Coasters throughout the year. Series casting directors draw primarily from local talent pools for smaller roles. Plus there’s always background work.
There is one potential drawback for New York actors if the trend escalates as Phillips hopes: no more free tickets to Los Angeles for those who land roles in comedy pilots. Given the temperature disparity in January, the prospect might leave some actors cold.