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Sunny’s Diner serves as set for film starring SWR graduate

Sunny’s Riverhead Diner & Grill served up more than just burgers this week.

After its regular hours Monday and Tuesday afternoon, the vintage diner transformed into a movie set.

The film, called “T11 Incomplete,” is about a nurse’s aid who falls in love with her paraplegic patient, writer and director Suzanne Guacci said.

“The film is about disabilities, it’s about paraplegia,” Guacci said. “I’m disabled. And the beauty of this project is we hired, in front of the camera and behind the camera, disabled people.”

Guacci, an amputee who lost her right leg, said she chose the name because T11 is the vertebrae that, once injured, can cause paraplegia. The word “incomplete” in the title refers to the medical term where someone still has some feeling — a message of the movie through the emotional connections formed.

Guacci of Sayville said the movie is being filmed over three weeks. Two weeks were filmed in New Jersey and the last week will be spent in towns across Long Island from Riverhead to Blue Point and Sayville.

Shoreham-Wading River graduate Karen Sillas with director Suzanne Guacci and Sunny’s Diner and Grill owner Jim Liszanckie. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

The cast includes Kristen Renton, who played Ima Tite in Sons of Anarchy, and Karen Sillas, a 1981 graduate of Shoreham-Wading River High School. Ms. Sillas, who received critical acclaim for her starring role in the short-lived television series “Under Suspicion” in 1994, worked with Guacci on an earlier film “Stuff.”

She said she was excited to film near where she grew up.

“It brings back a lot of memories of being on Main Street here in Riverhead,” she said. “I remember Sweezy’s and Sears and of course now you’ve got Splish Splash and the Aquarium and I remember taking my mom, just before she died, and my kids know it … I left to go to college but I’ve always had a connection, because of my mom. It’s nice to come back.”

Those who want to see exactly what scenes Sillas was filming at the local staple will have to wait until the movie’s spring 2019 festival release. They can also catch Jim Liszanckie, the owner of Sunny’s Diner and Grill, in the film as well.

“It’s very timely,” said Guacci, owner of the independent Aspire Film Productions. “Having such diversity and disability casting is such a huge thing. It’s probably going to be the most diverse film that actually is true of handicapped people playing roles. It’s really not anything we’ve seen.”

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