'Whoopi' begins production in New York

Friday, August 8, 2003

— Whoopi Goldberg grew up here, lives here and, whenever she can, wants to work here.

"You get to be a certain age, you just want to be home, girl," Goldberg, 47, said Wednesday as her new NBC sitcom, "Whoopi," began production for the fall season.

"Whoopi" will be filmed at the 14-acre Kaufman Astoria Studios in Long Island City. Goldberg said the decision to film the show in New York "was a real stipulation" for her.

"You can't get this feel anywhere else," said Goldberg, who plays Mavis Rae, a former singer turned New York City hotelier.

"Whoopi" is the first sitcom to begin shooting in New York since "Spin City" ended its filming at the studio in 2000 when the sitcom moved to Los Angeles. The studio has also produced "The Cosby Show" and "Cosby," and is the home of "Sesame Street."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who welcomed the "Whoopi" cast to the studio Wednesday, said the show would bring 250 jobs and about $13 million a year into the city's economy.

He joked that he'd be happy to be a guest star.

"Whoopi's going to have to talk to my agent," Bloomberg said.

Goldberg said the sitcom would mostly be filmed indoors, but that some exterior shots of the city are being discussed. Goldberg was asked whether she would be in violation of the city's smoking ban in public places with her character, who is a smoker.

The actress-comedian said she was ready to pay the fines, which range from $200 for a first offense to $2,000 for multiple offenses. "I have my checks ready," she quipped.

She won't have to pay -- the actors will be smoking herbal cigarettes, allowed under the city's smoking ban because they don't pose hazards.