Citizens search for stars during ‘Shots Fired’ filming at Rowan County Courthouse

Published 12:10 am Thursday, April 21, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY — On a bright and sunny Thursday at noon, passersby could see the beginnings of television production set up on North Main Street.

There were about five vans parked on Council Street with the words “Leased to 20th Century Fox” printed on them.

The Salisbury Police Department had a couple of vehicles on Main Street, ready to block off lanes and direct traffic when necessary.

For people walking by, the question of the day was, “What’s going on?”

The 120-person crew of “Shots Fired,” a television show from 20th Century Fox Television and Imagine Television, used the exterior of the Rowan County Courthouse to film a scene.

Citizens could access the front door of the courthouse from the side stairs, but most people decided to stand across the street to watch the filming.

Melissa Wriston, fiancé Joseph Keller and daughter Claire Murph were among the first people there to watch. They sat in the shade on a city bench, with a sheriff car for the fictional town of Gate Station parked nearby. Wriston and Keller both wondered if they would see any of the show’s starring actors.

“That stuff don’t come around a lot,” Wriston said.

They live close by, and said they missed the filming of “Sleepy Hollow,” another Fox television show that was filmed in the area. Keller said he was excited to see the city featured on “Sleepy Hollow.”

“It’s really interesting to see our town in a production,” Keller said.

“Shots Fired” has been filming all over the state, including Kannapolis, Concord and Charlotte, according to a crew member.

According to, the show stars Sanaa Lathan, known for movies such as “The Perfect Guy” and “Love & Basketball,” and Stephan James, known for roles in “Race” and “Selma.” Lathan plays Ashe Bell, an expert investigator who is looking into cases involving racially charged shootings in a small town in North Carolina. James plays Preston Terry, a special prosecutor who is sent to the town by the Department of Justice.

The website states, “The pair must navigate the media attention, public debate and the social unrest that comes with such volatile cases, as they seek justice before the divided town erupts.”

Also starring in the show are Academy-, Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress Helen Hunt (“As Good As It Gets,” “Mad About You”), playing the state’s governor, and Academy- and Golden Globe Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss (“The Goodbye Girl,” “Jaws”), playing a real estate mogul and owner of a privatized prison. Stephen Moyer (“The Bastard Executioner,” “True Blood”) plays a member of the town’s sheriff’s department.

Aisha Hinds (“Under the Dome,” “NCIS: Los Angeles”) and Tristan Wilds (“90210,” “The Wire”) will also be featured in the show.

The show was co-written by Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood.

As the afternoon went on, Main and Council streets became more active, with actors arriving in vans and scattering throughout the area. Fake news vans for Gate Station were parked in front of the courthouse, along with a real Fox 46 Charlotte news van. Eventually, two fictional sheriff cars were parked in front of the courthouse and the sign for the courthouse was taped over with a sign for the “Gate County Courthouse.”

At around 1:30, officers redirected traffic and North Main Street was temporarily closed for a scene. At least four cameras were set up to capture the moments, and once “rolling” was yelled out from different location, the street fell into silence as the scene was filmed.

More people gathered across the street from the courthouse to watch.

Keith Sills brought his binoculars to try and catch a glimpse of one of the shows stars.

“I came to see Sanaa Lathan,” he said.

There was a moment when Sills and the other men in the crowd thought she might be among the actors filing out of one of the vans on Council Street, but Lathan was not with them.

A production member said the city of Salisbury and Rowan County had been cooperative and helpful with providing officer resources and the use of the courthouse.

Another crew member said that most of the crew and extras were North Carolina locals who visited local Salisbury shops and restaurants while filming.

The filming was expected to wrap up at around 10 p.m. The show is expected to premiere in the fall.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.