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Veil of Secrecy Keeps Cast of 'Seinfeld' in the Dark

Television: Those involved in the final episode are asked to sign confidentiality pacts, and most of the actors work without scripts.

April 08, 1998|BRIAN LOWRY and GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The one-hour "Seinfeld" finale is scheduled to finish shooting today, amid the sort of security usually reserved for visiting heads of state.

NBC and producer Castle Rock Television will film the final scenes without an audience in an effort to keep key details from leaking out before the May 14 telecast. Some scenes are being shot in front of a VIP audience, but not members of the general public.

In addition, those involved with the episode are being asked to sign confidentiality agreements regarding its content. Most of the actors haven't been given scripts as a measure to keep the story line under wraps, and even NBC executives are being kept in the dark.

"Everything is under lock and key," said John O'Hurley, who plays J. Peterman, the catalog guy, one of several "Seinfeld" regulars who have been filming the final episode this week. "It's surreal if you're an actor. You don't know what you're going to be doing. We're just told what to do."

The episode has been filming on multiple sound stages and has already been in production for several long days.

"There are several dozen people right now just waiting to film this big scene," O'Hurley said from the set earlier this week. "The mood is very upbeat, like old home week. There are lots of actors who haven't seen each other in years, taking pictures of each other in every combination."

Ensuring that the episode remains secret promises to be a challenge, given the hunger for virtually any news surrounding "Seinfeld," especially in the tabloid press.

There already have been several "leaks" regarding the program, which were dismissed as either a hoax or joke. In the former category, a script outline circulated on the Internet that had Jerry and the gang ending up in Los Angeles.

Later, several "Seinfeld" writers appeared on the Fox News Channel, pretending to read from a script for the finale, saying the episode ended with Jerry and Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in a church together.

The Internet story "did fake a lot of people out," said George Shapiro, Jerry Seinfeld's manager and one of the show's executive producers, who added, "That's good. The more bogus stories out there, the better."

A new "Seinfeld" will air Thursday, with the last four original episodes to begin running April 23--the start of the next sweeps period--culminating May 14 with the one-hour finale. The concluding episode (written by Larry David, who co-created the show with Seinfeld) will follow an hourlong clip show of past highlights.

NBC has estimated that between 76 million and 79 million people will tune in for at least part of "Seinfeld's" send-off, an audience that would roughly quintuple the 15.6 million people who watched the first episode, titled "The Seinfeld Chronicles," in July 1989. Seinfeld has agreed to appear on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" that night, as the "Cheers" cast did when that show went off the air amid similar fanfare in 1993.

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