New York Catholic Schools Star in TV's Law & Order

By Murphy, Nora Sharkey | Momentum, February/March 2007 | Go to article overview

New York Catholic Schools Star in TV's Law & Order


Murphy, Nora Sharkey, Momentum


Among the uncredited "actors" in the popular Law & Order TV series are the New York Catholic schools. They have been the settings for principals' offices, gyms, play-yards and lawyers offices where actors play out the "stories ripped from the headlines" in the popular series filmed in New York City.

A call from a location scout-the person charged with finding the right look for a scene-to the superintendent of schools office in 1992 began what has been a fun and profitable relationship for the show and the schools. The scout was looking for a school to play the part of a prep school and was given several schools to contact. The schools, in turn, weighed the request against the practical side of running an academic program.

Tom Potenza was principal of Saint Agnes High School on Manhattan's upper west side when the scout called. Intrigued, Potenza invited the scout to the school, which had been an Episcopal day school, the minor seminary for the archdiocese and now is a boys high school. The scout liked the library with its tall wooden shelves. He also was attracted to the wood paneled principal's office. He was sold when he realized the school could be several places at once, reducing the crew's need to travel.

Agreeing to be the set for a television show means making accommodations. The crew learned the school's bell system and shot around it. The students knew that on filming days extra care needed to be taken when changing classes to minimize noise. The principal had to be willing to give up his office and work out of boxes. …

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