What producer, star say about filming show in Steel City

PASADENA, Calif. -- The Pittsburgh-filmed "Those Who Kill" will bring with it familiar visuals and maybe even familiar faces among the locally based guest actors and background players hired for scenes.

"Kill" follows Pittsburgh homicide detective Catherine Jensen (Chloe Sevigny, "Big Love") and forensic psychologist Thomas Schaeffer (James D'Arcy, "Cloud Atlas") as they hunt serial killers.

Here's an FAQ guide to the new show:

Chloe Sevigny, Glen Morgan talk about 'Those Who Kill'

Actress Chloe Sevigny and executive producer Glen Morgan talk about A&E's new series, "Those Who Kill," which was filmed in Pittsburgh. It debuts Monday night. (Video by Rob Owen; 3/2/2014)

Is this show the first prime-time scripted, one-hour TV series to film its entire season in Pittsburgh?

Depends how you define "series." The first season of "Those Who Kill" has 10 one-hour episodes. Spike TV called 2007's eight-hour filmed-in-Pittsburgh "The Kill Point" a miniseries. But "Kill Point" was in contention for a second season, although it was ultimately not renewed.

How did "Those Who Kill" end up being set and filmed in Pittsburgh?

Executive producer Glen Morgan wasn't sold on Pittsburgh until production company Fox 21 sent him to Western Pennsylvania on a scouting trip because of the state's film tax credits, which is what almost all producers of big-budget movies and TV shows cite as their reason for coming to Pittsburgh.

"Joe Carnahan, who directed the pilot, and I thought that we'd go to Vancouver because there's just a natural scrim over; it's a great atmospheric look," Mr. Morgan said. "And Fox said, hey, you know, there's some tax breaks in Pennsylvania. Joe and I complained the entire flight there, like, we're not doing that here. And from the airport to Downtown, we're like, yeah, we're coming here. There had been a look there that hadn't been seen on TV."

Pittsburgh film crews -- and the ancillary services and suppliers -- benefit from having a TV series in town. While a successful 22-episode broadcast network show would bring in even more money, a cable drama that costs close to $3 million per episode is still a boon to the local economy.

What local sights will viewers see?

Monday's pilot alone features Carrie Furnace, a parking garage near Duquesne University and beauty shots of Heinz Field and Downtown. Future episodes have scenes filmed at 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 and Western Penitentiary.

What local places will be mentioned?

There are name checks, too, including Allegheny Community College, Robinson Town Centre, Consol Energy Center, Allegheny General Hospital and Heinz Field in the pilot, along with Allegheny, Westmoreland, Butler and Washington counties.

"I always want to be true to the place," Mr. Morgan said. "You're a guest, and you don't want to show it in a bad light."

He stayed at the Omni William Penn and walked up to Oakland and to Polish Hill to get a sense of the city.

"You try to get the names right," he said, noting that "Kill" writers working on scripts in Los Angeles would describe events taking place in a "Craftsman-style house." "I'd be like, there are no Craftsman houses there!"

He said he went to dinner with the show's local casting director, Donna Belajac, before production wrapped, and they talked about his efforts to be true to Pittsburgh.

"I really admire 'The Wire,' " Mr. Morgan said, "and in no way are we that good with the language and place like they did, but I admired that and wanted to be like that."

Where was the series filmed locally?

Mr. Morgan said "Those Who Kill" rented office space at the 31st Street Studios in the Strip but didn't film there. Instead the show mostly used practical locations, including a Mount Washington condo near the Mon Incline that serves as the home for Ms. Sevigny's character in the first four episodes (she moves to a loft on the North Side later in the series).

To create the Homicide Division offices of the Pittsburgh Police Department, Mr. Morgan said the production used an abandoned Carnegie Library near the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Side.

"And we built [sets] in there, too," he said. "We built a prison upstairs."

For the pilot, homicide division scenes were shot at the South Side Market House Senior Center.

How did star Chloe Sevigny feel about relocating to Pittsburgh for four months of production?

She was not disappointed.

"I was really excited about going to Pittsburgh. I'd never been there before," Ms. Sevigny said, explaining that her mother grew up in Philadelphia and she was raised in Connecticut. "The Northeast to me is really home. I worked in Los Angeles on 'Big Love' for five seasons and it was really hard.

"I really don't like being in Los Angeles," she whispered. "So the fact that we were shooting in Pittsburgh made it a lot more interesting to me. I always wanted to shoot in Detroit or Pittsburgh or somewhere in the Rust Belt because whenever you shoot in a town, you really get to experience a town more than just going to visit for a weekend."

Ms. Sevigny lived in Bloomfield during production on the same block as Tessaro's.

"It's a little bit of a stinky block, but I love Tessaro's, they're such a nice family, good people," she said. "There's a great record store right there and a lot of cute shops up and down Liberty."

She bought tea at Prestogeorge in the Strip, ate tacos at Round Corner Cantina in Lawrenceville, dined at Salt of the Earth in Garfield and shopped at Marty's Market in The Strip and at the East End Co-Op.

Why is Kathy Baker in the opening credits of the premiere when she's nowhere to be found in the first episode?

Look closely and you'll see Ms. Baker, who starred in "Picket Fences," in an early scene sleeping in bed. She plays the mother of Ms. Sevigny's character and will have more screen time in upcoming episodes.

Who else stars in the show?

Aside from Ms. Sevigny and Mr. D'Arcy, the cast includes James Morrison, who played CTU boss Bill Buchanan on "24," as Jensen's boss, Commander Frank Bisgaard.

Omid Abtahi, who's had roles on "24," "Sleeper Cell," "Over There" and "Last Resort," plays Jensen's work colleague, Det. Jerry Molbeck.

Kerry O'Malley ("Shameless," "Brotherhood") co-stars as a Pittsburgh medical examiner who is friends with Jensen. And veteran actor Bruce Davison ("Last Resort," "The Practice," "Longtime Companion") has the key role of Jensen's stepfather, a Pittsburgh judge who she suspects is a serial killer responsible for the death of her long-missing older brother.

How long until viewers get the backstory on Jensen's relationship with her stepfather?

Monday's premiere hints at a strained relationship between Jensen and her stepfather, but the details of their beef remain unclear when she enlists forensic profiler Thomas Schaeffer to help her on a case.

Mr. Morgan said the second episode will spell out the backstory.

"By the second episode you know what's going on and by the fourth episode, [Schaeffer] commits to helping her investigate her stepfather," Mr. Morgan said.

Will the season end with a cliffhanger?

Yes, but in January Mr. Morgan said he wasn't sure which cliffhanger option would be used among several filmed.

"We just did the old, 'Cut. Now, you go in there and you stand there, film that, then cut,' " he said, bringing to mind the famous "Dallas" cliffhanger where multiple cast members were filmed shooting a gun, leaving them open as the possible shooter of J.R. Ewing. "We have a whole bunch of fun options."


TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.

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