The exteriors of the shacks where "Outsiders" character Big Foster (David Morse, "Treme") resides were built in the woods of Henry Kaufmann Family Park in Monroeville. The interiors of the same building have been constructed on soundstages at 31st Street Studios in the Strip District.
Phyllis Somerville is shown in a scene from Showtime's "The Big C" in 2010.
Photo courtesy of WGN America
The exterior of the shacks where "Outsiders" character Lil Foster (Ryan Hurst, "Sons of Anarchy") resides was built in the woods of Henry Kaufmann Family Park in Monroeville.
Joe Anderson stars in "Outsiders."
By Rob Owen / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Exhaustion and a need for recuperation are common as TV productions grind on, but actor Joe Anderson, one of the stars of WGN America’s “Outsiders,” hit the wall on day one — literally.
Sitting on a platform that supports an interior set on one of the soundstages in use at 31st Street Studios in the Strip District, Mr. Anderson described his first day on set and the accident that left him with multiple broken ribs.
“I managed to drive myself into a wall on an ATV,” said Mr. Anderson, a British-born actor best known for starring in the 2012 ABC drama “The River,” last summer’s WEtv drama “The Divide” and playing Mason Verger this season on NBC’s “Hannibal.” “It was totally my fault, nobody else’s fault. They wanted to see if I could ride a quad bike. The handlebar snapped and I drove straight into the wall.
“That was my welcome to Pittsburgh.”
Mr. Anderson recovered over the following four weeks and filmed a scene riding an ATV at the “Outsiders” filming location at the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh’s Henry Kaufmann Family Park in Monroeville, albeit with two stunt doubles assisting in some takes.
“It was set up like a joust with these two characters jousting on quad bikes,” Mr. Anderson said. “It was a great sequence, and the stunt guys here are fantastic with big falls, big flips and all sorts of stuff they did.”
Production on the 13-episode first season of “Outsiders” began in early May and is expected to run through September. The series debuts on WGN America in early 2016.
“Outsiders” follows the Appalachian Farrell family, who live off the grid and above the law on a Kentucky mountaintop homestead. Mr. Anderson plays Asa, one of the mountain people who left to live in the outside world and returns just as a power struggle between longtime matriarch Lady Ray (Phyllis Somerville, “The Big C”) and her son, Big Foster (David Morse, “Treme”), heats up.
Series creator Peter Mattei describes the serialized show, executive produced by Peter Tolan (“Rescue Me”) and actor Paul Giamatti (“John Adams”), as a family drama that draws from other genres.
“It’s got the hillbilly genre in the sense of something like ‘Winter’s Bone,’” he said. “There’s a larger than life epic element similar to ‘Game of Thrones,’ and there’s a sense of an outsider, alternative clan similar to something like ‘Sons of Anarchy.’ ”
The presence of “Sons of Anarchy” star Ryan Hurst, who plays Lil Foster in “Outsiders,” is sure to encourage that comparison.
“Outsiders” uses Millvale to play the town at the base of the mountain where the family lives. The show films mountaintop exterior scenes at Henry Kaufmann Family Park in Monroeville, where a compound made up of a barn, an ATV track, a moonshine still and multiple shacks, has been built. Interiors of those shacks are on one of the 31st Street stages.
In early June, production manager Rich Chapla gave a tour of the “Outsiders” stage-based sets, including rustic interiors of the shacks, some made partially out of RV trailers, a police station (the base of Holy Spirit Parish in Millvale plays the police station’s exterior) and the interior of an apartment whose exterior is in Millvale.
Mr. Chapla showed off the drug dealer’s apartment set, complete with fake marijuana plants under a grow light in the closet.
“He has a serious lack of drawers in this apartment,” Mr. Chapla quipped, surveying the piles of clothes in the corners of a bedroom.
Mr. Chapla, a Butler native, moved back to Pittsburgh a year and a half ago after stints in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, and has worked steadily locally on productions including “The Fault in Our Stars,” and the upcoming “Southpaw” and “Concussion.” He’s also on the board of the Pennsylvania Film Industry Association, which promotes business growth in the film/TV industry in Pennsylvania.
In a testament to the current abundance of local film work in town — Cinemax’s “Banshee” is filming its fourth season locally this summer — Mr. Chapla’s assistant, Emily Perri of Chippewa, never had to leave.
A 2013 graduate of Point Park University, Ms. Perri majored in cinema and digital arts and previously worked as production secretary on “Concussion” and interned on “Supah Ninjas.”
Local actors and other local behind-the-scenes personnel are getting work on “Outsiders,” too, including those who act as stand-ins for the show’s stars. (After actors rehearse a scene, they leave the set and people of a similar size/shape stand in for them while lights and cameras are adjusted.)
Jeff Healy, 51, of Brentwood is working as Mr. Morse’s stand-in for the second time in a year. Mr. Healy had the same job on “Concussion,” due in theaters at Christmas, where Mr. Morse plays the late Steelers center Mike Webster.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Mr. Healy said on an early day working on “Outsiders.” “He came over and started talking to me and I said, ‘I stood in for you on “Concussion,”’ and he said, ‘I remember, that’s why I came over and said hi.’ ”
Mr. Healy was a stay-at-home dad, but when his youngest became a high school senior, he responded to a call for extras for “Those Who Kill,” landing a background role as an off-duty cop. He went on to work as an extra on “Southpaw” and as Michael Caine’s stand-in on “The Last Witch Hunter.”
Michael Petyak, 25, of McCandless moved back from New York to work on Pittsburgh productions. He’s now a stand-in and photo double for Mr. Anderson.
“I love this city,” he said. “I still have my place in Astoria, Queens, but I’d rather be here. It’s more relaxed.”
The new-to-town “Outsiders” stars seem to like the local vibe, too.
Actor Kyle Gallner (“Veronica Mars”) brought his wife and two children for the shoot, and they’ve explored the family-life side of Pittsburgh, including the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the National Aviary and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.
Australian actress Gillian Alexy, who previously played the ill-fated Annelise on “The Americans,” said she has been impressed by local dining options.
“I’m a foodie and you guys have amazing restaurants,” she said while walking from her trailer to set to film a scene for the show’s third episode.
“I live in the East Village in New York,” said Ms. Somerville, “and whenever I mentioned where I was going, every person said, ‘It’s a great town, you’re gonna love it,’ and they’re right. I like to walk around Downtown but I always get lost and it seems to happen when it’s raining.”
Mr. Morse, who lives in Philadelphia, said his wife comes to visit on weekends and he brought his bike this time.
“I ride down the river trails,” he said. “When I was here for ‘Concussion,’ I didn’t have my bike and I’d go out walking. This is nice except for this August weather in June. I could do without that, but it’s a people-friendly city and I appreciate it.”
TV writer Rob Owen: email@example.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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