By Judy Kurtz
Roske is a man on the move. After flying in to Washington from Los Angeles the previous night, and then rising at the crack of dawn to shoot off emails, we caught up with him over a quick meal at Matchbox in Chinatown in Washington, D.C., last month.
“We have permission to bring in a tiny camera,” Roske explained to ITK, along with “Chasing the Hill’s” Fitzgerald and friend Shelley Cohen, as we chatted in an upstairs booth at the popular restaurant. Shooting for this show takes place just about anywhere and at anytime.
Fitzgerald, wearing bright-red lipstick as she prepares to jump into her starring role as the California congresswoman’s primary challenger, Samantha Clemons, at a moment’s notice, chimes in, telling Roske, “I really like how you highlight the personal cost. ... I think that’s underappreciated. I think the public in general has so much criticism for elected officials and holds them to unbelievably strict standards. ... I just think it’s a tremendous sacrifice to serve.”
But the show might not be entirely fictional. When we note that many Americans might not have much sympathy these days for a fractured Congress, Roske, a Minnesota native, replies, “The line that Gray Davis says in episode three: Another character says, ‘It’s OK because I’ve got money,' and he says, ‘Well, that’s good because it’s going to cost you everything.’ That was actually [former] Sen. Dennis DeConcini [(D-Ariz.)] who told me that.”
It’s no surprise that several of “Chasing the Hill’s” stars come from likely the most famous TV show to dramatize the inner workings of Washington.
“I didn’t give two thoughts to politics before ‘The West Wing,’ ” says Roske. “It just really opened my eyes to what’s going on.”
ABC News’s Rick Klein, who played himself in an episode of the show, joins the group. Roske finishes up a bite of his fish and chips before asking, “Are we ready to shoot this thing?”
Suddenly, the tables are turned and ITK is now making its acting debut. In a case of art imitating life, we’re pretending to interview Fitzgerald, who has now morphed into her character, the House hopeful.
On Roske’s cue, we deliver a question to Fitzgerald. Roske wants another take, saying while the first one was “great,” your ITK columnist should sound more skeptical during her line of questioning (those cynical Capitol Hill reporters!).
We finish up and chat a bit more. Roske already has plans for the next season of the show. He’s thinking of mixing things up, maybe following a real-life candidate. There’s been talk of airing “Chasing the Hill” on a cable station or making it “a thing thing,” as the affable producer says. And he’s working on securing his dream “get” — he won’t name names, but says excitedly there’s one person he’s dying to have on the show.
Roske and his crew head out of Matchbox. A few minutes later we eye Roske and Fitzgerald just down the block. Fitzgerald is strolling down the street with Klein as Roske is crouching down holding the camera, shooting another scene for the show.
Photo: (Left) Brent Roske, Melissa Fitzgerald, Terese Casey, and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) at the Green Ball in Washington, D.C. during inauguration weekend.
(Right) Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Brent Roske.