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Whoopi Goldberg series to start shooting in boro

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actress Whoopi Goldberg were all smiles last week as they announced the start of production in Astoria for a new comedy series featuring the New York-born star.

“It’s a wonderful day for New York,” said the mayor at a news conference in Studio H at Kaufman Astoria Studios, where the situation comedy, “Whoopi,” will be shot.

The project will create 250 jobs and bring $13 million worth of business to the city, said the mayor. He used the occasion to reaffirm the importance attracting businesses to New York.

“The city continues to get better, crime continues to come down, the streets are clean, the schools are getting better, people want to live here — you can see that in the real estate prices — and we want to make sure that people have jobs and the best way to do that is make the city business-friendly,” Bloomberg said.

“Whoopi” will air this fall on NBC Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. On the show, Goldberg plays an ex-diva who uses the earnings from her one hit song to purchase a Manhattan hotel. The program is one of 118 to shoot in New York City but the first situation comedy to do so since “Spin City” was canceled in 2000.

Kaufman Astoria Studios, the oldest studio in New York City, was founded in 1920 and now is home to “Sesame Street,” WFAN radio, Lifetime Studios and “The Sopranos.”

Goldberg, 47, said she was elated to be filming in the city she calls home, not least of all because the show takes place there.

“If I wanted to do a show about New York, it was probably a smarter idea to do it here, because you can’t get this feel anywhere else,” she said. “You can’t do this in Canada.”

The mayor said much of the city’s film and television industry had fled north of the border in recent years, a trend that could only be reversed through constant efforts to attract businesses. He praised the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, headed by Commissioner Katherine Oliver, for working with police, sanitation and other city agencies to make it easier for the entertainment industry to work in the city.

“I’m sure everybody would like to have a show like this,” Bloomberg said. “It’s a very competitive business. What we have to understand is that if we don’t make New York attractive, the industry will go. All industries will go.”

Even when quizzed on the smoking ban, the mayor was still smiling. He said it would not matter that the character played by Goldberg on the program smoked frequently, noting that actors and actresses often used herbal cigarettes which did not contain tobacco. At any rate, he said, special exemptions were available for situations like film, television and theater.

But Goldberg was ready for trouble.

“Because this is a building in the State of New York, there is a fine that’s levied every time someone smokes,” she said, waving a personal check and smiling broadly. “I have my checks ready.”

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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