Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Frozen produces Hegyes' 'Venice Walk'

Robert Hegyes, the veteran actor, writer and director still best known for his role as Juan Epstein in Welcome Back, Kotter, has joined forces with Frozen Pictures for a gritty new dramedy series,The Venice Walk.

The series, which began principal photography last week on location on Venice Beach in Los Angeles and in the Frozen Pictures production facilities, is a unique, innovative series headed for the Internet-- and told in five-minute "webisodes" that can combine into half-hour episodes.

Hegyes created and wrote the 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.

The series is produced by Brett Hudson and Burt Kearns of Frozen Pictures, who executive produce with Hegyes under the Frozen banner.

“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. 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.

“I’m known from television. I still get fan mail for Juan Epstein,’ says Hegyes. “So why the Internet? This where the young audience can be found today. And this is the future.”

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 cast members 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.

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