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Interview with Regina Heyman

The Sopranos' location manager takes us around Jersey's hot dog stands and dicey neighborhoods.

  

HBO

So have you become the world's leading authority on northern New Jersey?

Gina Heyman

I would say probably. [LAUGHS] But you know, there're always new things to discover, which I find out on every episode.

HBO

Is it hard to keep things new?

Gina Heyman

We actually have a file drawer called "Body Dump Sites." [LAUGHS] So, yeah, a little bit, but mostly finding the locations is driven by the writers, so when they write new things, we're looking for new things.

HBO

Do you feel that the locations have a bigger role in the show than on some others?

Gina Heyman

Yes, definitely. On this show, Jersey is its own character. I always think of these hot dog stands that we end up shooting at, like the Stuart's Hot Dog Stand, that I've only seen in Jersey.

HBO

The McMansion has been raised to an art form on the show.

Gina Heyman

Yeah, we're constantly having things written for "the Great Room." In these newer homes, everybody's got a great room, , an open room that has its cathedral type ceiling.

HBO

Is that hard to convince people to let you use their house?

Gina Heyman

Not usually. People like The Sopranos so much that I've had people offer to pay us to shoot at their place. But you occasionally run into an Italian-American who thinks that it's making fun of their people and don't want to have anything to do with us.

HBO

Do a lot of fans track you around, trying to figure out where you'll be shooting?

Gina Heyman

Yes, oh, yes, every year it's more. That's something that I haven't experienced on other jobs, even on big movies with big stars. I guess maybe it's the nature of being a series that has this cult following, but there are people who will go to great lengths to figure out where we are, and stand out in the cold on the side of a highway all day, not being able to get anywhere near the set, and still just stand there. It's actually quite surprising and a little bit scary. [LAUGHS]

HBO

Is it important that the locations are just right?

Gina Heyman

People from New Jersey always tell me they watch the show to spot familiar places. These are things they recognize from their whole lives. So I think it's important.

You know, I've had location managers come to me and say, oh, can we look through your houses? It's become a catch phrase: we're looking for a Sopranos-style house or a Sopranos-style diner.

HBO

Can you tell us some of your "greatest hits" on the location front?

Gina Heyman

Well, this year we have this one scene that takes place driving over the Pulawski Skyway, that's going to be pretty spectacular.

HBO

Mm-hmm.

Gina Heyman

And we shot at an apple orchard, which was pretty amazing, and we scouted for that for a long time.

Last year there was a place that we shot in East Orange; the storyline was that they were buying up all these HUD houses and reselling them. We searched, trying to find the slummiest of slums...[LAUGHS] The stretch we finally settled on was actually a really scary neighborhood to shoot in, we ended up having to have police protection while we were filming. So, I guess we found the authentic crappiest place that you could possibly find, since our scouts got practically murdered while they were looking for it. But I thought that was pretty good looking, when I watched the footage from that.

HBO

So, there have there been things the writers asked for that you found really, really hard to produce?

Gina Heyman

Yeah, definitely. Sometimes there're just very specific requirements that almost don't exist, but you still have to try and look for it. Last year on the show, they were building this esplanade, so we had to shoot at a real construction site. But, it had to be on a river, because it was supposed to be Newark.

So, we scouted all along the Newark waterfront, and the only building that was under construction on the waterfront was an FBI building. [LAUGHS] And they wouldn't let us shoot anything to do with them, especially after 9/11. So, we kept scouting on all different rivers in northern New Jersey, but it took us a really, really, really long time. I mean, even when we found one, we pretty much had to shut down a working construction site, so...it was pretty tricky.

HBO

What makes a really good location person.

Gina Heyman

Being a workaholic. [LAUGHS] I'm a perfectionist, you know. That's almost a personal question, what you're asking, because to me, I always just want to do the best job I can. Even if I'm irritated, or I hate my job, or I'm annoyed. [LAUGHS]

Interviews