Louisiana’s reputation as Hollywood south is ringing true these days in two East Feliciana towns as filming for one cable television series is underway in Jackson and production is ramping up in Clinton for a movie.
Both towns are expecting economic advantages from film crews working in the areas.
The two towns are seeing paved streets turned into dirt roads and the construction of sets for the Civil War-era productions.
Jackson residents have probably noticed some recent changes to the downtown area.
Charter Street, also know as La. 10, has become a dirt road, and the historic Centenary Inn has been transformed into the Franklin Hotel by the production crews of the Civil War-era cable series “Underground.”
What appears to be new construction is actually recently fabricated backdrops for the WGN America television drama about a group of slaves who intend to travel 600 miles on the Underground Railroad after a daring escape from a Georgia plantation.
Jackson businessman Smitty Schmidt has had some of the buildings he owns “re-dressed” for scenes that began filming early last week.
“Having the filming for a Sony television show take place in Jackson is a huge win for the parish,” said East Felciana Chamber of Commerce Director Audrey Faciane. “Not only have several thousands of dollars been spent in Jackson, but this also will produce a great interest with movie groupies and has the potential to bring many tourists to our area.”
Christopher Meloni, of “Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit;” Jurnee Smollett-Bell, of the television series “Friday Night Lights” and “True Blood;” and Aldis Hodge, of “Rectify” are set to star in the Sony Pictures TV and Tribune Studios production. Jessica De Gouw, who appeared in the shows “Arrow” and “Dracula,” co-stars.
Anthony Hemingway, an alumnus of “The Wire” and “Treme,” will direct the first two episodes.
“Underground” is expected to debut in early spring 2016.
Clinton turns into movie set
Beginning in May, downtown Clinton will be the setting for “The Free State of Jones,” starring Matthew McConaughey, casting director Brent Caballero said in a news release.
Publicist Alex Worman said they are several weeks away from filming the movie in Clinton and specific dates are not locked yet.
“As soon as I get those specific dates, I will inform the town of Clinton,” Worman said.
“The Free State of Jones,” based on a true story, is set during the Civil War and tells the story of defiant Southern farmer Newt Knight and his armed rebellion against the Confederacy, according to the news release.
Clinton’s St. Helena Street, which will have dirt beginning at Bank Street and ending at the caution lights on Plank Road, Liberty Street and Church Street are expected to be turned into dirt roads during filming.
Clinton Police Chief Frederick Dunn said he has been working closely with the Department of Transportation and Development as well as the Louisiana State Police to come up with a plan to ensure the safety of motorists during filming.
“We will be working closely with several agencies to ensure the safety of those traveling on the roads in Clinton during the filming of this movie,” Dunn said.
“As soon as the Department of Transportation gives me the plans on the detours motorists are going to have to take, I will let the public know what to expect during filming,” he said.
Casting Coordinator Rikki Hegwood, from Caballero Casting, said in a news release the company will be hiring local background actors for the film and television show.
Anyone interested in being a part of the filming of the movie can email a submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submissions should include a current photograph. Call (225) 361-2487.
Hegwood said production crews will be shooting for the cable series in and around Jackson, Baton Rouge and Vacherie.
Paid background actors interested in work on “Underground” can email their submissions to underground email@example.com.