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'The Unusuals' will be on the case

TELEVISION / ON THE SET

Spending time with the cast of ABC's police show that aims to channel 'Northern Exposure,' 'MASH' and 'Law & Order.'

January 11, 2009|Choire Sicha

NEW YORK — In Brooklyn's 88th Precinct -- only four murders in 2008! -- they have built a fake precinct house, and in it they are shooting chunks of "The Unusuals." To pick up the names dropped by producers and staff, ABC's new cop show is like a slice of "Northern Exposure" with "MASH" dressing inside a "Law & Order" baguette.

This was 12 days before Christmas. Amber Tamblyn, formerly Joan of "Joan of Arcadia," said: "Why don't you come back tonight when I'm dressed like a hooker? In my tiny, tiny miniskirt! I hope I can look like the really glamorous Julia Roberts kind of hooker." Her cop character was going undercover.

There were also Hookers No. 1 and No. 2 on the call sheet -- with lines, even. From the script: "Hey, baby. Like what you see? (etc.)" Also, there were "2 Non SAG Perps in holding cell ('Ghetto' Thugs)." Who says there are no good roles for women and blacks?

To be fair, the show has both: Tamblyn and Harold Perrineau, formerly of "Lost." "The cast is strangely close and we all get along and we all live in the East Village and we'll all go out for drinks together," Tamblyn said.

Uh oh. "Oh, I talked to them about that," said executive producer Noah Hawley. "Everyone seems to be behaving themselves." But how is the vibe on set? "It's wonderful," said the key grip. " 'Peachy' is the word that comes to mind."

Tamblyn and fellow acting cop Jeremy Renner finished two hours shooting of a 30-second scene and started wrestling. "Come on, be a piggy! Be a piggy!" she yelled at Renner. She was attempting to Scotch-tape his nose in the "up" position.

Hawley, late of "Bones," which became too procedural for his taste, was not there to supervise. He was away in a production meeting -- "almost as exciting as a concept meeting, which is almost the same thing but a week earlier," he said.

So far, Renner said, he has filmed or read five or so scenes in which his character describes why he became a cop. He has not yet been near costar Adam Goldberg, and has only caught sight of Perrineau -- "Like a yeti sighting," he said.

"It's so different now, television," Tamblyn said. "Everything's so up in the air -- what a season is, what a show does.

"Back in my day. . . ." Tamblyn said. "Also there's a lot more attention paid. It's a lot bigger of a deal."

She was on "General Hospital," yes, and is at work on her second book of poetry, but she also was born in 1983.

"I've got toenails older than her," Renner said.

But are they being paid well? "I can do a lot with $20," Renner said.

"That's two bottles of Fuji water," Tamblyn said.

"What are you going to buy me for Christmas?" Renner asked.

"A nothing. A big pretty nothing," Tamblyn said.

"Can you send me a care package of dignity and self-respect?" Renner asked.

"Did you say 'dignity'?" Tamblyn asked distractedly.

"This year has been very strange," Tamblyn said. "It's a unique year." She spent some of it campaigning for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and some of it writing. "Apparently in this thing called life there are changes."

Then: "Shopping! Time to go shopping. Mommy's not in this scene," she said.

The show will premiere on ABC on April 8 -- or whenever, as "it could be sooner, we'll see what happens," Hawley said -- when everyone will get to see her in the hooker get-up. "Boobs to the chin!" Tamblyn promised.

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