The streets of Borough Park were abuzz this past Monday, as a major television production took to 13th Avenue for the filming of an upcoming episode, which included a casting call for people to portray chasidic men and women. Dozens turned out for the chance to work as paid extras on the set of the show Blue Bloods, a police drama series portraying an Irish American family of police officers who are NYPD members, which airs weekly on Friday nights.
The episode being filmed deals with a murder in the family of a prominent chasidic rabbi, with police officers navigating the unique challenges of investigating a crime within the tight knit Chasidic community.
Video credit: Shimon Gifter.
"When you do an episode in a specific community, there are things that might appear unusual or strange to the outside observer and it is easy to stress the apparent differences but our intention here was to show the similarity between the Irish-American family of police officers and that of a chasidic rabbi's family " Ian Biederman executive producer and one of the writers told VIN News.
"So much is the same in different cultures: the relationships, how people love each other and how they deal with loss. Those things all exist in every community and we wanted to portray the commonalities of these two varied cultures, despite their obvious differences. Maybe on the outside the chasidic community seems different than that of the Irish American police officers we are portraying, but deep down inside we are all very much the same."
Filming in a chasidic community was integral to capturing the flavor that was crucial to the episode, according to Biederman.
"There was no place else in the world that we could have shot this and done it right," explained Biederman. "We wanted the look, the feel, the sounds and the accents to be authentic and we never could have accomplished that using actors to portray chasidim. We needed the right feel and a specific population and you can really feel the flavor of the chasidic community coming through all over the film. It teems with life and the feel of the place."
Production staff at Blue Bloods reported that despite never having seen their show, members of the Borough Park community greeted them and their crew with open arms.
"Everyone was so welcoming and cooperative ," said Biederman. "It was just fabulous. People were so courteous and they asked great questions. Clearly this was something they don't see every day."
In this Jan, 7 2013, an actor dressed up as a Hasidic Jew talks to the actors portrayed as police investigators. Photo: Eli Wohl
One scene for the episode was filmed inside Krausz Hatters on 12th Avenue and featured one of Blue Blood's lead actors donning a shtreimel, something Biederman termed "a moment not to be missed."
Future filming is scheduled for January 9th, 10th and 14th and as the episode is officially set in Williamsburg, producers aren't ruling out the possibility that they may shoot some footage there as well.
According to Amy Miller, director of publicity for Blue Bloods, approximately sixteen chasidic extras were hired for the shoot with an additional fifty four actors dressed up as chasidim. The episode, titled Men in Black, is scheduled to air on February 8th. Blue Bloods is currently in its third season and fifty four episodes have been aired to date.