Savannah Morning News, Mary Mayle
Aug. 24, 2016
Sony Pictures Television announced Wednesday that “Underground,” its hit series from WGN America, has moved filming of its second season to Savannah.
The new 10-episode season of the Underground Railroad thriller that follows a group of slaves as they attempt a daring, 600-mile escape from a Georgia plantation begins production in Savannah on Monday with Aisha Hinds of “Under the Dome,” “True Blood” and Star Trek into Darkness” cast in a recurring guest star role as Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad’s most famous conductor.
The production, which will shoot in Savannah for approximately four months, is expected to spend close to $50 million.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Trip Tollison, president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, which oversees the Savannah Area Film Office. “Since we started courting the entertainment industry, we’ve known that the real prize was landing a major television series.”
A series typically brings in more people for a longer period of time, he said.
“But, most importantly, it shows people in the entertainment industry that Savannah has the ability to handle, partner and work on an ongoing project.
“It also shows our local workforce that we are serious about bringing in work that pays well and, hopefully, will encourage them to look at the first-class training that’s being offered at Savannah Technical College’s Georgia Film Academy.”
An instant hit
“Underground” delivered 3 million total viewers weekly in its first season and made history as WGN America’s most-watched original program ever in its freshman season.
The series was honored with screenings across the country — including at the White House — and ranked as the No.1 most discussed cable drama on social media each week it aired. This summer, “Underground” was featured at the NAACP National Convention, where the series and its stars received a standing ovation at the National Underground Railroad Center in Cincinnati. “Underground” was also highlighted at the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Conference in Washington DC with a panel discussion.
“Underground” season two is expected to premiere early next year on WGN America.
The series, which its producers say tells the unflinching story of some of America’s valiant heroes — enslaved people who risked their lives to reach freedom — was recently honored with three CableFax Awards, including Best New Program, Best Historical Show/Series and Best Showrunners, Misha Green and Joe Pokaski.
On the square
Meanwhile, earlier this week, “Underground” location manager Laura Bryant sent letters to businesses and residents around Chippewa Square notifying them that filming for the series is anticipated in that area on Tuesday and again on Sept. 6.
“Our first day is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, August 30th,” the letter said, adding that there will be an interior scene on the 300 block of Bull Street, as well as an exterior scene on the northwest corner of Chippewa Square. “In keeping with the period, we will put down a dirt/mulch composite on the streets to resemble mid-1800s Georgia, low-hanging moss will be removed and parking will be restricted.”
The second day of filming is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 6, she said. Crews will be erecting a set at the north end of Chippewa Square.
“Once again, we will put down a dirt/mulch composite on some of the asphalt roads around the square and we have permission from the city to remove some of the Spanish moss from the trees in the square and on Hull Street,”she said.
When crews begin prepping, parking will be restricted near the square, Bryant said.
The crew will consist of about 150 people and the production’s working trucks will be staged nearby. Crew cars and base camp will be on private property.
“We do realize that we are guests in your neighborhood and will act accordingly,” Bryant said in the letter, adding that crews will take care not to block business and residence entrances.