Saturday, November 11, 2006
Exclusive! Hegyes is back with the "anti-O.C."
If you were on the Venice Walk in sunny Los Angeles over the weekend, you might have noticed a Seventies TV idol and group of young actors shooting scenes for a new youth-oriented dramedy series that, against all odds, is not headed to television.
At least not as a first stop.
Robert Hegyes, the veteran actor, writer and director still best known for his role as Juan Epstein in Welcome Back, Kotter, was running and gunning along the beach with a new group of sweathogs—only the gang of teenage misfits is whole lot tougher to deal with in The Venice Walk.
Hegyes created and wrote the Internet series with Craig Titley (who’s also writing 20 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea for Sam Raimi), centering on a probation officer and his caseload of Venetian juvenile delinquents.
“It’s the anti O.C.,” says Hegyes, sporting a head of ringlets that only accentuates his resemblance to Harpo Marx, “The flipside. Real lives of kids in Venice.
“I play Paco Santana, a probation officer who was a gang cop out of Brooklyn. He got shot up, retired, and his old girlfriend in L.A. said, 'Why don’t you come out here, and instead of capping kids, try and fix em?' It’s not going very well. It’s going very badly. These kids are more fucked up than I am.
"The Venice Walk plays out in webisodes. This is a story told in five minute segments. It adds up to an entire season. But this is for the Internet. There’s no room on TV for this.”
No room on TV for one of its classic stars? Hegyes, a favorite not only for Kotter but series like Cagney & Lacey and Diagnosis Murder, says this in all seriousness. The actor who still gets bags of fan mail each week tells us he’s simply looking to the future and the direction his industry is headed. Besides, his work as a real-life college professor and teacher at Venice High School keeps him in touch with what kids are into—and looking for.
And just as Kotter launched John Travolta, Walk promises more than a few break-out stars among a young and pretty ensemble that plays the grafitti artists, shoplifters, druggies, hackers, killer and and skateboard pimps that make Venice Beach so entertaining, including Brea Grant, Preston Davis, Garrett Plotkin, Max Van Ville, Priscilla Medina, Brittny Lane Stewart, Richie Blair and as Paco’s love interest, Tiffany Moretti (above left).
And of course, more than couple of old buddies will make appearances. Lawrence Hilton Jacobs from Kotter and Cagney & Lacey’s Martin Kove will be showing up, playing grown-ups (executive producers from Frozen Pictures include another Seventies TV idol: Brett Hudson of the Hudson Brothers.)
Look for The Venice Walk to make a splash Thursday night at LA’s Vanguard club, as castmembers will be on the red carpet—and on the runway— at the 15th Anniversary party for the Beastie Boys-connected hip hop and skater clothing line, X-Large.