There was HBO's "John Adams" miniseries, followed by Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning epic, "Lincoln," and Bill O'Reilly's less epic "Killing Lincoln" for the National Geographic Channel.
Now a buzzed-about historical drama for television is coming to town. A pilot about George Washington's personal band of spies, the Culper Ring, is scheduled to start shooting here in April. "Turn" is being produced for the AMC channel, home of the hit series "Mad Men" and "The Walking Dead."
Set in the summer of 1778, the story follows New York farmer Abe Woodhull, who bands with childhood friends to form a spy ring that helped turn the tide in America's fight for independence. The script by "Nikita" creator Craig Silverstein is based on the book "Washington's Spies" by Alexander Rose.
It will be the television debut for director Rupert Wyatt, who helmed the box office hit "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," which has grossed nearly half a billion dollars worldwide. A couple of Aussie stars — Meegan Warner and Daniel Henshall — are attached, as well as British actor Burn Gorman, who played Phillip Stryver in "The Dark Knight Rises." He plays Maj. Hewlett, a British officer assigned to the colonies.
And yes, the production is hiring locals as actors and crew. A casting call seeks "Caucasian males between 18 and 35 for a variety of roles, some of which require accents (British/Welsh/Scottish/Irish)." Details are listed at ericavoldcasting.com.
"It's really the golden goose of productions to land," says Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office. "If it does become a series it has the potential to be a great industry-building opportunity for us."
The pilot will be shot in Goochland and Powhatan counties and possibly Petersburg, taking advantage of previous infrastructure and sets from "Lincoln" and "John Adams," Edmunds says.
There's also the state's film tax credit, though Edmunds says Virginia's tax rebates are relatively small compared with others. "By adding the sets and making it a package deal," he says, "we were able to attract them."
Marnie Black, senior vice president of public relations at AMC TV, says it likely will take several months to shoot the pilot and another six months to consider whether the pilot will become a series. If the show makes the cut, it could air in 2015.