News Column

Turlock thrilled to welcome ?Mean Girls? actress Chabert

December 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Dec. 06--TURLOCK -- Turlock is making "fetch" happen.

"Mean Girls" and "Party of Five" actress Lacey Chabert is in Turlock filming the new Corbin Bernsen-written-and-directed romantic comedy. She began shooting in the city Wednesday as the lead in the film about a young woman who turns to a Christian dating site for love. On Thursday night, the production moved to Main Street Footers for a date scene between Chabert and co-star Jonathan Patrick Moore.

Bernsen, the former "L.A. Law" star who now can be seen on the USA series "Psych," announced last month that he had selected Turlock to film much of his next picture. Filming on the project will continue in town until about Dec. 18.

"Lacey is an incredible talent," Bernsen said as the crew was setting up for a night shoot. "For a fast-paced production like this, it is important to have someone you know can deliver. Also, she has a real charm and vulnerability to her. But she's also a person who can command a lot of respect."

Chabert rose to fame as a child actress, playing the youngest daughter on the hit family drama "Party of Five" from 1994 to 2000. In 2004, she appeared as one of the titular "Mean Girls" in the Lindsay Lohan high school comedy. In the film, her character, Gretchen Wieners, gets memorably admonished for trying to make the term "fetch" popular.

The 31-year-old star tweeted on Wednesday about her new project: "Good morning! First day on a new movie today #grateful #excited #nervous."

Despite temperatures that dipped into the 30s Thursday night, a handful on onlookers and fans stood outside the Turlock eatery to catch a glimpse of the stars.

Sixteen-year-old Turlock High student Briana Padilla brought a sign that read, "Lacey Chabert in Turlock? That's so fetch!" Padilla sent it to Chabert on Twitter earlier in the day, and the actress replied and told her to come say hello on set. "She actually noticed me when we came up and came over herself," Padilla said. "She was so nice. It's really fun watching the movie being made. It's interesting."

The actress also posed inside Footers for pictures with some of the local extras, many of whom were selected from the open casting call held late last month at Turlock's Pet Extreme. The two-day auditions attracted 1,192 people for the chance to be in the film, mostly in walk-on or background roles.

Bernsen estimates he'll use some 100 to 150 people from the auditions. On Wednesday, the first day of filming, some 30 locally cast actors were used at Lisa's Cookie Jar on Broadway. Thursday inside Footers, there were about a dozen more, including the restaurant's staff. Earlier in the day, the crew was at Sushi Cuisine on Monte Vista Avenue. Upcoming locations will include 10 East Kitchen & Tap House and Lightly Used Books.

The crew of some 40 people as well as the stars are staying in Turlock during the shoot. All of the local extras are volunteers, as are some of the behind-the-scenes production jobs.

Salida resident Tony Appiano was among the local production assistants. His family has donated two large recreational vehicles for Chabert and Moore to use as their trailers during the shoot. On Thursday night, he was keeping watch outside of Footers to make sure the sidewalk was clear and to call out crew signals.

"Overall, it's a pretty fun to see and to help everyone out," Appiano said. "It's long days standing around. Yesterday was 14 hours. People ask me if I'm getting paid. But I don't need to get paid. This is just for the experience."

After production wraps up in Turlock in two weeks, the crew will do some additional filming in Los Angeles. Bernsen said he hopes to have it ready by the spring to open in limited release in theaters and then be available on video. And, if funding comes through, he hinted that he would use Turlock again for his next feature.

"Turlock has been unbelievable," Bernsen said. "It's everything we hoped for, plus 10 percent. Usually, we just get 70 percent of what we hoped for, so this is great, just great."

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on Twitter @marijkerowland.

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(c)2013 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)

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