Fox TV pilot to film in Salisbury

  • Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 1:31 a.m.

SALISBURY — Watch out for the headless horseman.

The villain from “Sleepy Hollow” will haunt Salisbury and ride through parts of downtown as early as next week when crews descend on the city to film the pilot for 20th Century Fox’s new supernatural thriller.

Confirmed filming locations include St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Confederate Monument, with several other spots under consideration.

Salisbury’s getting another taste of 20th Century Fox’s love affair with North Carolina. The studio’s hit show “Homeland,” filmed in Charlotte, shot several scenes here last year.

“Sleepy Hollow” has the potential to have a much larger economic impact on the city.

“The hope is that if the pilot gets picked up, Salisbury will become Sleepy Hollow, which is so cool,” said the Rev. Whayne Hougland of St. Luke’s, where the Headless Horseman will ride over the lawn, confront hero Ichabod Crane and possibly catch on fire.

If the pilot spawns a TV series, several locations in Salisbury could become permanent backdrops, said Elaney Hasselmann, city spokeswoman. That would mean hundreds of people staying in local hotels and eating at local restaurants for months, Hasselmann said.

The pilot alone will bring dozens of people to town for several days. The economic impact, including how much money the studio will pay for city permits and police security, hasn’t been calculated, Hasselmann said.

Hougland said St. Luke’s hasn’t signed a contract with producers yet because the pilot’s creative team keeps increasing the time they want to spend filming at the church, now possibly including the interior.

“We are certainly excited that they are using St. Luke’s as a backdrop, and our hope is that they will find it such a unique space that they will come back and shoot again and again,” Hougland said, adding the studio’s offers have been “very generous.”

The studio has been exceptionally careful with the church property, first constructed in 1828, Hougland said.

“They have been very respectful of the church and concerned about not damaging any sacred space or being perceived as being inconsiderate of sacred space,” he said.

Based on the short story by Washington Irving, “Sleepy Hollow” tells the tale of Ichabod Crane, who wakes up in a modern-day Sleepy Hollow 200 years after slaying a soldier on the battlefield. The soldier — the headless horseman — also returns from the dead, seeking revenge.

The show will be set in the 1800s and modern times, with law enforcement agent Crane and the villainous horseman traveling through time to do battle between good and evil.

The pilot comes from the writer-executive producer team of Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci of “Star Trek” and stars British actor Tom Mison from “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” as Ichabod Crane and Nicole Beharie from “The Good Wife” as a local detective. Orlando Jones from “MADtv” and Katia Winter from “Dexter” co-star.

All filming in Salisbury will take place in the evening and late at night, and some roads will close temporarily.

“I love it,” Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson said. “Anything we can do to get our name nationally, and I think it will bring tourists. It puts the place on the map.”

Crews have been scouting Salisbury for close to a month, arriving in chartered buses to check out lighting, locations and even the ringing of church bells, Hasselmann said. City staffers in several departments are working closely with the studio, which Hasselmann said has been a great experience.

It’s not clear when Fox will air the pilot.

Salisbury is one of several locations in the Charlotte region where filming will take place, said Beth Petty, director of the Charlotte Regional Film Commission.

“20th Century Fox really loved the historic nature of Salisbury,” Petty said. “… We are thrilled that 20th Century Fox decided to come back to the Charlotte region.”

She said movie and TV studios like the variety of locations available in the Charlotte region, from the architecture in downtown Charlotte that mimics Washington, D.C. for “Homeland” to the 200-year-old buildings in Salisbury that could have been home to Ichabod Crane before his long nap to the post-apocalyptic world created in the vacant Phillip Morris plant for “The Hunger Games.”

Of course, no one knows yet if “Sleepy Hollow” will be another hit like the acclaimed “Homeland.”

“We’re going to have to wait and see,” Petty said. “It’s very exciting.”

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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