Pittsburgh showcased in 'Those Who Kill'

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Glen Morgan likes to walk. On foot, the West Coast native has gotten a kick out of sampling the highs and lows of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, from the top of Mount Washington to a stroll through Downtown's Light Up Night.

"Once I went from the hotel, up to the 31st Street Bridge, then up to the [Immaculate Heart of Mary] church, up by Polish Hill," he said. "It's just beautiful up there."

Professionally, he's strolling with a purpose. Among his many jobs as executive producer and writer of the A&E Network series "Those Who Kill" is giving the moody thriller a sense of place. The show -- an American remake of a Danish series -- stars Chloe Sevigny as a city of Pittsburgh homicide police detective working with James D'Arcy's forensic psychiatrist.

The shoot began in early September and is expected to wrap Monday or Tuesday. The production maintains offices at 31st Street Studios.

"It's all a big adventure," said Mr. D'Arcy, who grew up in London. Before signing on for what has become the biggest scripted television series to film primarily in Western Pennsylvania, he was unfamiliar with the city or its seasonal charms.

"I think it's a great city, beautiful," he said last month. "I had no idea fall would look this way. I've never seen anything like it. I keep stopping the car and jumping out to take pictures. Now that the [euonymus] bushes are going red? Trees, yeah, but not this."

According to the Pittsburgh Film Office, the 21 Fox/Imagine Television production used private homes in six neighborhoods, including the Mexican War Streets, Upper St. Clair, Braddock and Shadyside. Scores of trucks filled with equipment have rerouted traffic all over the region, including last Monday in front of Pittsburgh Allderdice 9-12 in Squirrel Hill.

Locations included the Allegheny County Courthouse, Riverview Park, the 31st Street Pub, a warehouse on 40th Street, a Downtown parking garage, the Braddock VFD, the New Hazlett Theater, the old Carnegie Library at Allegheny Square, the Brownsville Hospital, Western Penitentiary and, because no Pittsburgh shoot is complete without it: the old Carrie Furnace site.

Mr. D'Arcy surmised "Those Who Kill" could do for the city what "Breaking Bad" did for Albuquerque, "which no one had really ever filmed properly before. And you think what 'The Wire' did for Baltimore. With any luck, we'll do something like that in Pittsburgh."

But sometimes, that recognition comes with a price. The production has given fair warning in neighborhoods tied up during a shoot. A day before using a house on Murray Hill Avenue near the campus of Chatham University, apologetic fliers were handed out to residents.

Even then, traffic jams were inevitable, as they were near Allderdice last Monday. By midmorning, movie-mover trucks were lining the Shady Avenue entrance to the high school.

At 10:20 p.m., police were still waving on rubberneckers gawking at a group of people gathered at the corner of Shady Avenue and Maeburn Road, between Forward and Morrowfield avenues. Alderson Street had been blocked off earlier in the evening.

In Pittsburgh late last year to film the pilot episode, Mr. Morgan -- whose previous credits include executive producer on "The X-Files," "Millennium" and "Bionic Woman" and co-exec producer of ABC's creepy "The River" -- said he was fairly stunned by the city's visual charms. But he had to be sold at first.

"I'll be honest ... the director, Joe Carnahan, and I were like, 'No.' But the studio said, 'You're here because of the Pennsylvania tax [credits], go check this out.'

"I was [makes growling noise] complaining the whole way, and when I was there 20 minutes I said, 'Yeah, OK, great.' It just had everything for us."

For East Coast native Ms. Sevigny, who grew up in Connecticut and lives in New York City, Pittsburgh's climate and cultural sensibilities are familiar.

"Here, I feel a lot more at home," she said.

She last made a full-time series commitment with five seasons of HBO's "Big Love" and in the past year guested on shows such as "American Horror Story: Asylum," "The Mindy Project" and "Louie."

During downtime in Pittsburgh, Ms. Sevigny has made the rounds of parks, museums, bars and restaurants.

Particular favorites, she said, have been Gooski's in Polish Hill, Remedy and Round Corner Cantina in Lawrenceville and Casa Reyna and Kaya in the Strip District. She has shopped for groceries at Marty's Market in the Strip and the "awesome" East End Food Co-op in Point Breeze.

For Mr. Morgan, the extended shoot has been a sports fan's dream. He went to the Sept. 22 Steelers-Bears game, bought the ubiquitous black-and-gold snow hat and went back for more games.

"I have [San Diego] Chargers season tickets, and I've been to more Steelers games," he said, laughing.

Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or Twitter @MariaSciulloPG.

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