Just a few weeks into 2018, it’s already shaping up to be another big year for Brooklyn boy Will DeMeo.
The Gravesend-born actor and director who, last year, chose his home borough as the backdrop for his latest venture, a television series based on Brooklyn in the ’80s – aptly called “The Neighborhood” – will once again be bringing the cast and crew to his old stomping grounds.
“We plan on shooting in April and we’re gonna be shooting all over the neighborhood,” said DeMeo, who can’t release which network the show will air on just yet, but can say that it’s going to be a hit. “It’s getting a big response in Hollywood and we’re so excited to get back out there and start shooting again.”
In “The Neighborhood,” DeMeo – who doubles as the series’ lead and director – will star as Brooklyn mob soldier Benny Zerletta. Zerletta, he explained, is forced to choose between fulfilling his mother’s dying wish and a responsibility forced upon him as a made man of a powerful crime family.
The show has already been seen filming throughout the ‘hoods DeMeo grew up, in such spots as Night Life Café and La Trattoria Italiana in Sheepshead Bay, Lenny’s Pizza in Bensonhurst, Nick’s Fine Jewelry, Café La Notte, Paradise Catering Hall and Peter C. Labella Funeral Home in Gravesend, Romanoff Restaurant in Coney Island and Benson Scrap Metal in Gowanus.
Locations have also included everyday Brooklyn streets, including DeMeo’s mother’s block on West Street (which he named his production company after) as well as Marine Park.
Perhaps most notably, DeMeo and his team packed the parking lot of the now-shuttered Vegas Diner with old-school rides and filmed inside the decades-old neighborhood staple just days after it closed last June.
As for this year’s filming, DeMeo said, “The Neighborhood” will pick up where it left off at places like Lenny’s, Labella and Our Lady of Grace. It will also set its sights on L&B Spumoni Gardens.
To boot, some Brooklynites with old school houses should expect a knock on their door from DeMeo himself.
“We’ll be looking for ‘80s looking houses to film in and outside of,” he said, only half joking that, if you want to be a part of history, “don’t reface your house.”
Tying together two of DeMeo’s worlds, Kevin Connolly – the director behind “Gotti,” in which DeMeo will star as Sammy “the Bull” Gravano alongside John Travolta’s John Gotti – is also slated to join “The Neighborhood,” for which he will direct at least two upcoming episodes.
“It’s just been really incredible,” DeMeo said of Connolly’s involvement. “And it just goes to show how big this is getting. Our goal is to win an Emmy. Our goal is to make this the next ‘Sopranos’ and really be on television for a good four of five years, hell, maybe longer.”
But what it’s really all about, he said, is shining a spotlight on – you guessed it – the neighborhood.
“This whole project is really special to me,” he said. “It’s really unique. There’s nothing else like it on television today. I’ve always said that there are so many stories to tell about growing up in our neighborhood that I could go on and on and on, and that’s exactly what this is.”
“There hasn’t been anything like ‘The Sopranos’ in a long time, and this is the real deal,” he went on, adding that the series will be Brooklyn “through and through” (the still-under-wraps trailer for which, this paper can confirm exclusively, certainly portrays that).
“This is the realest vision you will get of the way it was in Brooklyn in the ‘80s,” he said, stressing also that it’s not just about the Italians and it’s not just about Bensonhurst and Boro Park. “It’s about everybody.”
His co-stars include such names as James Russo, Louis Lombardi, Paul Ben-Victor, Leo Rossi, Nick Turturro, Bo Dietl, AJ Benza, Ken Lerner, Christina DeRosa, Chris Tardio and “Mob Wives” star Natalie Guercio as well as fellow Brooklynites Joe D’Onofrio and Patrick Borriello and local boxing legend Paulie Malignaggi.
Some really well-known, to-be announced actors will also be signing on for the first season, DeMeo said.
But, going back to “Gotti,” DeMeo teased, there is a big announcement coming soon in terms of the major motion picture’s release.
“It’s going to be in theaters across the country,” he said. “There’s not much else I can say about it at this time but it’s all really exciting and I can’t wait to make my neighborhood proud.”