TV series to premiere this week could return here if it's successful
By Suzy Valentine
A TV series scheduled to premiere this week brought $20 million to the Miami-Dade County economy in filming proceeds last year.
Audience reception to "South Beach," listed to broadcast on UPN at 8 p.m. Wednesday (1/18) and scheduled to run for 12 more weeks, will determine whether the cast and crew return to film further episodes.
This week's episode is a pilot shot in the county in March. The series stars actress Vanessa Williams, who's back in Miami this week for the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts' 25th anniversary gala at Bayfront Park on Saturday. The Brickell organization provided her a grant in its first year in 1981.
Ms. Williams last year played the part of Elizabeth Bauer, the owner of fictional boutique hotel Soleil, in "South Beach," a series "about these two guys from Brooklyn," she said. "My son runs a club, and another guy, the son of a crime boss, tries to influence the business."
It was up to the producers to decide which county landmark would represent the hotel in the show.
"The crew shot scenes of the Albion Hotel when visiting last spring," said Graham Winick, film and print coordinator for the Miami Beach Office of Arts, Culture and Entertainment, "but when filmmakers returned later in the year to make the remaining episodes, they shot predominantly at the Eden Roc (Renaissance Resort and Spa), so we'll have to wait and see."
Scenes in the fictional club, Nocturne, were shot in Miami, not Miami Beach, said Mr. Winick.
"It's next to Club Space," said Robert Parente, director of the Miami Office of Film, Arts and Entertainment. "They shot quite a bit there."
Producers recreated a hotel lobby for Soleil at Greenwich Studios in North Miami. They also made downtown Miami look like New York.
"They shot the opening scenes in downtown Miami, which played as Brooklyn," Mr. Parente said. "The back of the Gusman (Theater for the Performing Arts) has a fire escape reminiscent of areas of the Big Apple. It may be difficult for those of us familiar with the scenery to suspend disbelief, but if you keep palm trees out of it, that quarter of downtown can pass for any urban locale in the Northeast."
The production team also shot footage of the boardwalk next to the Eden Roc and a rehabilitated building in Collins Park opposite the Artecity project.
Mr. Winick commended the timing of the show's launch.
"UPN has scheduled 'South Beach' with a leadin from its best show, 'America's Next Top Model,'" he said. "It makes more sense to air the series midseason, when the schedule isn't so crowded nor the networks so embroiled in a bitter ratings war."
Ms. Williams, who rented in The Continuum during shooting, is confident about the show's formula.
"There's the model and fashion aspect for the 20-somethings," she said, "and there is 'The Sopranos' factor."