"This Funeral Procession Was Only For Television"

by Sharon Lerman, Oakland Tribune, 12 April 1999

OAKLAND — A line of patrol cars wound its way through the hilly Mountain View Cemetery on Sunday, where police in dress uniform solemnly braved the drizzle and chill to honor a fallen comrade.

With the recent deaths of an Oakland police officer, a Dublin sheriff's deputy and an Oakland firefighter, it was a scene that has grown all too familiar. But thankfully, Sunday's services were all Hollywood — a film crew was shooting a scene for the pilot episode of "Partners," a new police drama.

Producer Ken Topolsky, whose company also produces "Party of Five," said the television drama centers around police, their families and relationships. Topolsky said he was aware police here have had more than their share of law enforcement funerals in the last several months.

"We were very fortunate to have their cooperation," Topolsky said. "We're hoping (the experience) helps speed the healing process for them."

ARLEEN NG — staff picture
In a departure from their regular duties of serving the public, Alameda County Sheriff's deputies get a shoeshine on the set of "Partners," a new television drama taping Sunday in Oakland.

Members of several law enforcement agencies in Alameda County served as extras in the funeral scene. The production company planned to compensate the agencies by donating money to the charity of their choice.

For the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, the choice was easy.

Sgt. Jim Knudsen said $5,000 of their earnings will go to a trust fund for the family of John Monego, the deputy shot to death in December after responding to an emergency call at Dublin's Outback Steakhouse.

The department earned $10,000 for the 60 deputies who took part for the day. The remaining $5,000 will be donated to Hayward's Salvation Army, Knudsen said.

ARLEEN NG — staff picture
Actress Marg Helenberger, who starred in 'China Beach' in the 1980s, gets made up on the set of 'Partners'.

Extras on the set also included members of the Oakland and Vallejo police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the East Bay Regional Parks Police.

Several local faces also served as extras in the shoot, including members of the Oakland Film Commission.

Donning a police uniform for the first time was Scott Trimble of Berkeley, who has appeared on the sidelines of "Nash Bridges" and in the film "What Dreams May Come."

"It's fun — usually I play the bad guys," Trimble said of his new look. "It would be fun to walk around town like this."

The show's director, Carl Franklin, hails from Richmond. His work includes the film "One True Thing," starring Meryl Streep and William Hurt.

"Partners" is currently being pitched to CBS. The pilot is expected to air in mid-September," Topolsky said.

In a rare chance to show their faces on national TV or to work behind the scenes, several teen-agers and adults from city social programs were provided by the film commission.

ARLEEN NG — staff picture
Lt. Jerry Maldonado of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department covers up with an umbrella while waiting during filming.

Kristen Francois, 17, is a teen mother and emancipated minor. Sunday, she assisted the film crew and helped position actors, learning what goes into creating a television show.

"When I was younger, I really wanted to be an actor, or maybe a director," Francois said. "The actors, of course, they're important because they're playing a role, but it's everybody else that has to bring (the set) up to par so they can do that. That's something you don't recognize when you're watching TV."

After standing alongside actors as an extra in the funeral scene, Donta Nesbit said he found show business isn't so difficult at all. A single father of two, Nesbit lives in transitional housing at the Henry Robinson Multi-Service Center.

"I see you need to be very prepared, but it's not hard work, like moving refrigerators or anything like that," he said.

The crew began filming in the Bay Area nearly two weeks ago, beginning in San Francisco. While most of the extras and production interns were hired for the day, one Oakland man hit paydirt — after his first day, he was put on the payroll.

Robert Stuckey, who regularly works on Soulbeat, said he hopes the experience will bring him more opportunities in the entertainment business, where it's often difficult to get a foot in the door.

On his first day, Stuckey said, he got the chance to yell "Action" at an actor who hadn't heard the first cue.

"It was exciting, you know, and on my very first day... all the experience I have now will give me a foot up the next time a crew comes through. You can't ask for any more than that," Stuckey said. "And you know, I was picked. So you know I've got to feel blessed."

Today and Tuesday, the crew will film at residential locations near the Berkeley border and in East Oakland, Topolsky said.

©1999 Oakland Tribune

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