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View Count: 115 |  Publish Date: April 04, 2014
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TV drama 'Murder in the First' shooting in S.F.

The morning fog had lifted over San Franciscos Chinatown, and actors Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson were busy chasing down a lead in a Silicon Valley murder case.
I didnt do nothing! yelled a male witness, as Diggs - playing SFPD homicide Inspector Terry English - collared him on the Grant Avenue sidewalk. The witness tried to break free and yelled, Police brutality!
The scene was shot over and over again from multiple camera angles on a recent Monday morning in San Francisco for a new drama series called Murder in the First, to debut in early June on TNT. As cameramen, assistants, stunt doubles, consulting technicians, set extras and stylists worked, shoppers and tourists gawked and Chinatown merchants looked on with wary curiosity.
The fictional crime drama, co-created by Emmy-winner Steven Bochco and Eric Lodal, is set in San Francisco and follows a single case across the 10-episode first season. It involves a rich and petulant young techie named Erich Blunt played by Tom Felton (best known for his role of Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series); inspectors Terry English and Hildy Mulligan (Robertson); and a handful of colorful detectives and high-flying attorneys and prosecutors.
As the inspectors try to solve the maze-like case of two seemingly unrelated murders, family dramas play out between English and his wife and Mulligan and her daughter.
Diggs, who made his feature film debut in How Stella Got Her Groove Back and has had roles in a wide range of shows and Broadway productions, from Private Practice to Rent, said the scripted crime drama marks a departure for him.
My character is a normal, everyday cop, and he has his struggles, said Diggs, taking a break from filming. His wife is dying of cancer. Hes not a super cop. Hes a real, authentic guy. Ive really had to concentrate on the lows, and the hardship.
The new series is a thriller and a wonderful page turner, said the shows producer, Caroline James. Its been a lot of fun to make San Francisco a character. Its really a valentine to the city. Filming will last for two to three weeks in San Francisco, with the rest of the work done on set in Los Angeles.
Preparing for the police roles involved spending time with homicide detectives and inspectors in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and talking with police brass, including SFPD Chief Greg Suhr. Longtime SFPD homicide Inspector Joe Toomey is serving as a technical adviser on the series.
They want to get the police stuff right, Toomey said, watching the scene in Chinatown - the language, procedures, arrest techniques, crime lab, that sort of thing.
Robertson, who recently appeared in the political drama Boss with Kelsey Grammer, prepared for the role by talking with Suhr and doing ride-alongs with detectives in Los Angeles. She went into crack houses, watching as criminals were apprehended and arrests were made.
I asked questions about how they do things, what they love about these shows and what these shows always get wrong, Robertson said, sitting in the Four Seas restaurant in Chinatown, which served as a location for shooting. The biggest thing I got from my research that isnt in television shows or movies is the true dynamic between the cops and the bad guys. They know each other. The cops know the offenders, and its actually much more casual because they know each other.
Robertson said she was taken with the script because of the complexity of Mulligans character. You can play the single mom, so you get that aspect, and you get the woman doing a job that is tough and dark and dangerous, Robertson said. I found it fascinating to have this person who is a mom, and yet goes out and sees the worst of the worst.
Back outside the restaurant, the film crew had moved one street up, to Waverly Place.
Diggs was now rehearsing a scene where he sprints down Waverly in pursuit of the witness. Out of breath and flashing a grin, Diggs said of his job: I get to chase and tackle people and shoot guns. Its playing cops and robbers.
To see a short video of actor Taye Diggs on the set of Murder in the First in San Francisco, go to: www.sfgate.com/news/item/On-the-set-of-Murder-in-the-First-28295.php.
Julian Guthrie is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: jguthrie@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @JulianGuthrie

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Time: 23:19  |  News Code: 394642  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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