pull to the side of the road of a cul de sac right
into a patch of shade. It’s almost one thirty and I
have a phone interview with Elizabeth Stephen, the
President of Mandalay Entertainment Television and the
prime mover behind the series “Brotherhood,” which
is being filmed in Rhode Island for the Showtime
Network at this very moment. Its impact to the
economy, to local industries and to the self-esteem of
Liddle Rhody is said to be enormous, the effects of
which we won’t know for years to come.
|Elizabeth Stephen, President of Mandalay Entertainment Television, on the PhotoShop film strips in front of the State Capitol in Providence, RI, where many a night of midnight oil burned to clear the way for “Brotherhood,” the television series for Showtime Network that she produces.
Photo and design by Lew Place.
|Elizabeth Stephen and her friend Steven Feinberg, Rhode Island Film and Television Office Director. Along with elected officials and industry leaders they made “Brotherhood” happen for the state.The series has been in production since July 5th and will continue through November.
Photo by Lew Place.
why Liddle Rhody as the choice of location?
Did I say that instead of “little”? Yes, I did.
Habit. A trace of my accent local to these shores,
with its fleshy consonants and r’s as elusive as
trace elements. Yet, as I will soon find out, we Rhode
Islanders with our peculiar accent figuratively talked
our way into becoming the host state for this major TV
three minutes late. I press dial.
the administrator puts Elizabeth on the phone.
ear takes over my mind’s eye as she speaks. Her
voice is clear and friendly, with a ceiling of
reserve. In her accent are tapered curves and a raised
lilt. New York and Connecticut, I guess.
I say. “It’s easier to remember.”
or as it has been called, “The Hill,” was created
by Blake Masters and centers around two brothers, one
a politician (actor, Jason Clark), the other a
gangster (actor, Jason Isaacs) and the dynamic
cauldron they boil on opposite sides of the law. Set
in an Irish neighborhood in Providence, it could be
the next McSopranos.
heard that you have roots in Rhode Island,” I ask.
“Were you born here?”
I was born in Manhattan,” she says, “and I went to
Brown Unioversity as an undergraduate. But my
great-grandparents were from Rhode Island. So, I guess
you can say I have roots there. They owned a factory
there until the 1950’s. In fact, I just visited the
house they lived in on the East Side. It’s funny,
for the four years I went to Brown, I never visited
where they lived. I didn’t know where their houses
were. It wasn’t until recently that my father found
a letter with their address on it and when I came back
here for ‘Brotherhood,’ I drove by the houses
where they lived. I have so many memories of my
college days in Providence. The Haven Brother’s
how did you end up coming here?”
was an idea that Blake had. I love his writing. He
originally wrote the script for film, but I begged him
to rewrite it for television. Even though I’ve done
feature films. We began talking about where we could
do it whether we should do it in New York, but we went
out to Rhode Island to check the location. We loved it
so much, we left Blake there. And he’s still
there!” she laughs.
exciting to shoot the show in RI.,” she says.
“It’s so rich. That history alone is beautiful, so
much history. I know accent and flavor is important.
And the different ethnicities, Irish, Italian, Jews.
There is texture to the world there.”
this could have gone elsewhere if you hadn’t had
Rhode Island in your mind’s eye? Your mind’s ear,
to be more appropriate.”
|Some Rhode Islanders are ashamed of their accents...” But that accent won the day for the “liddle” Rhody when it became the location for “Brotherhood,” Showtime Network’s new prime time series.
Photo by Vin Fraioli.
|One Rhode Islander caught saying “Cahr.”
Photo by Vin Fraioli.
It probably would have gone to Philadelphia. They were
thinking about it, but I pushed for RI. I love the
this point, I pride myself at having lost my accent.
Ah, such speech, such breath chiseled by conscious
consonants, the dull softness and open vowels snapped
shipshape by my speaking other languages for so many
I lost my accent a long time ago,” I say proudly.
“I’m so used to speaking other languages that
You still have an accent,” she says. “I can hear
thing,” she says, “some of the producers thought
that the Rhode Island accent was much too heavy and
difficult to understand. But to Philip Noyce’s and
Blake Master’s credit, they insisted that it would
bring so much authenticity to the show. When Showtime
Network saw the pilot they were thrilled. I have to
give Showtime lots of credit. It would have been much
easier for them to say, ‘let’s do it in
Toronto.’ And, of course, there was my friend, Steve
Feinberg, the Director of the Rhode Island Film
Commission. He’s a Rhode Island native. He spent
twenty years in LA and knows the business.”
I know Steve, I say. I watched him bring his
experience from Hollywood back to Little Rhody, his
native state. I watched him work hard at convincing
the Powers that Be to pass legislation which makes the
state film friendly.
thank Elizabeth for her time and openness. I hang up
the phone. I pull the car mirror towards my face and
speak into it.
the car and wash the clothes,” I say.
I do not hear, “Pahk the Cah and Warsh the
Clothes.” I don’t have an accent.
so, as far as I’m concerned, this accent, this
so-called affliction, this audible vulnerability to
burlesque, countless cartoons, ribbings, and
demonstrations has finally paid off.
how “Brothahood” came to town!
Fraioli is a writer, sometime actor, classical
guitarist, husband, father living in Rhode Island. He
is a world traveler giving concerts and lectures, and
a frequent contributor to IMAGINE. He was born in