By Eileen Becker-Gray
I met Tom C. Erb years ago at the Newport Film Festival. We have been looking forward to working together since then. That opportunity occurred when I attended an audition in Newport, RI for a television series he had created. As I entered the beautiful historic house in which the auditions were held, I had a positive feeling about this project. The concept was innovative; the team was talented and the location was Newport, RI, an ideal situation for any actor.
Newport, Rhode Island is known for the America’s Cup sailing challenges, opulent mansions and gilded age fantasy, spectacular landscape and art. Drawing visitors from the world, the culture of art, history and architecture keeps the streets full, and the economy strong.
Newport RI: The Series brings to life the paintings of world renowned, local artist William Heydt. Heydt has produced hundreds of watercolor paintings of the local people and landscapes of Newport in his series “Newportant People.”
Created by Tom C. Erb, this television series evolved from a gallery viewing of Heydt’s watercolor series. Erb explains, “The people who were in the paintings were there that night. Each painting became bolder and more vibrant as I spoke with the people and actually saw their personalities come to life in these colorful, detailed paintings.”
As Erb reflected on the paintings, he thought, “What if we took those stories, brought them to life – actually bring a piece of art to life?” Matching the paintings with fictional characters and stories, the story lines are an endless source of inspiration. With over 200 paintings in this series, this idea took on a life of its own as it grew into a potential series for television.
Each episode in this new series will portray William Heydt’s paintings with fictional scripts for each image. In addition, many of his landscapes will be a part of every episode, fading the story fades in and out of Heydt’s paintings. Each episode will conclude with a short interview with the actual people depicted in that episode’s painting.
Executive Producers are Michelle Duga and Rob W. Gray. In addition, the talented, immense musical community of Newport is composing the original music for the series.
I landed the role of Janet Flynn, one of the local characters in William Heydt’s paintings. Behind the scenes, the local people truly represent Newport. They are important to the fabric of the community – they are “Newportant”.
Ellen Becker-Gray is a member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA. Her comedic timing can be appreciated in her role as Tatiana’s Mother in scene with Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy and Kaitlin Olson in THE HEAT, directed Paul Feig. Ellen has a Principal, recurring role as Janet Flynn in NEWPORT RI: THE SERIES.