Ella McCay Comes to Rhode Island

I recently attended a press conference in the Governor’s State Room at the Rhode Island State House to celebrate 20th Century Studios production of the major motion picture Ella McCay, which will be filmed in Rhode Island. The Master of Ceremonies was Steven Feinberg, executive director of the Rhode Island Film Office. A slew of Rhode Island dignitaries spoke including Governor Dan McKee, who welcomed the production, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, Speaker of the House Joseph Sekarchi, and Providence Mayor Brett Smiley. The director of the picture, James L. Brooks, briefly spoke as did Academy Awardwinning actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Fellow actors Woody Harrelson and Emma Mackey were also in attendance.


The film follows an idealistic young politician, Ella McCay (Emma Mackey) who tries to balance family life and a challenging work life while gearing up to take over the job of her mentor, the state’s longtime incumbent governor played by Albert Brooks.

The cast consists of Emma Mackey (Barbie, Sex Education, Death on the Nile); Academy Award winner and best-selling author Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once, True Lies, Trading Places, and the Halloween franchise); Emmy Award winner and Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson (“Cheers,” The People vs. Larry Flint, “True Detective,” Natural Born Killers, Zombieland, No Country for Old Men, Kingpin); Academy Award nominee Albert Brooks (Broadcast News, Defending Your Life, Finding Nemo, Lost In America); Oscar nominee Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick); Emmy and Golden Globe winner Ayo Edibiri (The Bear); and Spike Fearn (Alien: Romulus, Tell Me Everything).

The film was written and is being produced and directed by Emmy Award and Academy Award winner, James L. Brooks. His many film and television credits include the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Taxi,” Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets, Broadcast News and “The Simpsons.” Brooks has been nominated for 58 Emmy Awards and has won 21 times. This film is the first that Brooks has directed in over 13 years.

The introduction for the press conference was given by the executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, Lynne McCormick. Governor McKee welcomed the production team and spoke about how important bringing productions like this to the state is for our economy. He encouraged other productions to come to Rhode Island and experience all the diversity and innovation that Rhode Island has to offer.

Senate President Ruggerio echoed the Governor’s words and spoke about the beauty of Rhode Island and how it is gratifying to see our landscapes in major motion pictures and television. Speaker of the House Sekarchi followed Ruggerio speaking in much the same vein. The last of the officials to speak was Mayor Smiley who praised the production for bringing more art and culture to our state. He went on to praise local RI artists and emphasized how important the arts are to our state. Calling Providence the “Creative Capital,” Smiley stated he hopes more young people consider the arts as a viable career path, as the arts enhance and enrich the lives of all citizens.

Feinberg then introduced writer, producer, and director James L. Brooks addressing him as, “A legend of television and cinema and an all-around great guy.” Brooks thanked all of the dignitaries and attendees, and stated that they had looked at many locations to shoot the film and was very grateful they decided on Rhode Island.

“The locals have been nothing short of gracious and appreciative. We feel it every day and it’s exactly what we need to fuel us,” said Brooks. He also stated that filming would begin the second week of February and is slated to wrap in April. The majority of the film will be shot in Providence, mostly at the historic Cranston Street Armory and a vacant commercial space off Broadway. Feinberg also hinted that other scenes will be shot at different locations across the state, but didn’t reveal the specifics.

Feinberg asked the cast if they had anything they would like to add. Mackey, Harrelson, and Curtis looked at each other and laughed, then the irrepressible Curtis said, “Sure, I have a few things to say.”

Curtis began by thanking everyone who came to the press conference. “It’s excellent to be here in Rhode Island,” she said. “As an actor, one of the greatest things for me is to be on location and discover the wonders that our country has to offer. California wonders why a lot of movies aren’t shot there anymore. The answer is that they have not made things conducive to a creative environment and they don’t provide the breaks necessary for production to be done in a timely, cost-effective manner. The strikes happening showed a lot of us how the movie and television industry doesn’t truly care about the people who are making them money. Do better California, because we’re more than happy to go to places like Rhode Island to create our art.”

Indeed, Rhode Island has had its share of productions in recent years including Good Burger 2 and Hocus Pocus 2. These films bring jobs to the state and incentives are given to bring even more productions in the future. Ella McCay is slated for release in early 2025.