POLITICAL ANIMALS – Sigourney Weaver & Carla Gugino – Info, Tidbits & Secrets of the Filming

 For the past three months Sigourney Weaver, Sebastian Stan, James Wolk, Carla Gugino, Adrian Pasdar, Ellen Burstyn and Ciarán Hinds, quietly filmed the USA Television Network’s political drama “Political Animals” in Philly (not much has been written about the show or sightings and I just kept saving all my stuff to someday use on Fox 29 or maybe a write up. It was a busy social spring and I just never got to to it). 

Lured by the Pennsylvania’s generous Tax Credit, the film is set in Washington DC, but was filmed in our fair city putting to work many local production crews, set designers, security, drivers and countless others.  PA’s Tax Credit offers a 25 percent tax credit, plus a hotel tax exemption and
allowing free use of state-owned property. For more info, visit the Film in PA Web site. Philadelphia offers free police assistance under certain conditions and free security site assessment. Click here for the link to the Greater Philadelphia Film Office.  Sigourney stars as former first lady and current
Secretary of State, Elaine Barrish Hammond, (the producers insist it’s not autobiographical, but maybe just inspired by Hillary.) who is attempting to keep
her family together while simultaneously dealing with crises of the
State Department and fending off the hungry DC journalist Susan Berg (Gugino) who is bent on destroying her career, as she puts in, when in reality Susan Berg just wants to get the story.

A lot of the filming took place in a large warehouse in Southwest Philly, which was fitted with a replica Oval Office (the same one
that was used in West Wing), a situation room, an interior of Air Force
One, and an expansive townhouse set for the Hammond family with a dining
area, kitchen, bedrooms and patio. Upstairs in the building is the
newspaper office (complete with paper- and book-littered offices) of the
fictional Washington Globe, where reporter Susan Berg works. Occasionally they would film in Center City and you would see signs like the one above directing the “Elephants” (ie actors) to their holding room until the scene was shot. 
The same week that Dead Man Down was filming on Walnut Street, Political Animals was filming at the Bellevue at the Hyatt. It’s there I caught Sigourney as she entered  to film a few scenes on the 17th Floor of what will be called the “Rideway Hotel” in Washington DC. BTW Weaver was being cagey about getting her photo taken, but smart enough to put a baseball cap on to promote the show.

Later in the week they would film a scene at the hotel in the Grand Ballroom, which called for 500 extras. I ran into someone I know who flashed the T-Shirt he was given to wear for the scene. I could have been an extra that day too, but because of Colin Farrell I had to pass on it. Good thing too, the scene took 12 hours to film.

Another Day I caught them rehearsing for a scene that was filming in Raw/Sumo Lounge which fronts both Chestnut and Sansom Streets.That’s Ciarán Hinds (Elaine’s ex-husband, former president Bud) crossing the street in blue shirt.
This is the shot at night on Chestnut St. During the day the shot consisted of a business meeting, but at night the club was used for a
red carpet party. Thanks to Michael Tomasetti, Chatterblast, for the use of this photo.
One night I got a tip that they were going to be filming at midnight in Fairmount Park with elephants. I tried to sneak “near” the set to get a photo. (this is a screen shot from a preview) Unfortunately my headlights can’t be turned off and the police kicked me out  telling me it was past the curfew of the park.  Until I saw this photo I thought maybe Sigourney was going to do a Republican advert or something. Now I can see that it was probably the two characters meeting at the zoo. Of course they can’t use the Phila Zoo because they don’t have elephants.
A bit of time went by and I didn’t hear much about the filming. There were sightings Sebastian Stan had dinner at The Corner the night of the Sumo Lounge filming (both places are owned by Tony Rim.), The entire cast at at Le Castange at 19th and Chestnut when they first arrived.  Running over lines, getting to know each other for about 4 hrs. Sigourney ate at Parc, plus and went to a show at the Academy of Music. Carla was spotted walking around Washington Square Park. (I heard she had rented a house near 21st & Delancy.) The only thing that was slightly annoying about the production was their reluctance to give local press. Not me per se, but CBS3 Talk, NBC 10’s The Ten Show and of course Fox29’s Good Day Philadelphia.
Then last week, the night I photographed Greg Louganis at Parx Casino, I got a tip that Sigourney Weaver and Carla Gugino were filming in Fitler Square Park. That was the night of the big storm, it was about 90F at 9PM when they filmed these scenes, a winter scene.   Check out the coats they had to wear.
In between scenes Sigourney stayed in character while being fanned by an assistant.
Political Animals is a limited series that will premiere on Sunday (July 15) on the USA Network at 10PM. I have seen the clips and the show is going to be a smash hit. I just hope they can make it into a series except Weaver has a full plate with a movie coming out this Friday, then in the fall opening on Broadway with Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and has Avatar 2 to film shortly after that.