News Column

As 'Revolution' fades to black, crew move on

June 1, 2013

YellowBrix

June 01--The season finale of "Revolution" airs Monday and although its stars will not be in the Port City to see it, a small group of North Carolina background actors who regularly appeared as Monroe Republic militia on the NBC show will gather in downtown Wilmington to reflect on their favorite experiences of the locally filmed drama.

It's been almost a year since the actors, clad in dark, Civil War-era style uniforms and wielding swords and muskets, surrounded a make-shift stronghold -- Wilmington's former Sticky Fingers restaurant on Market Street -- to attack a loosely organized resistance who refused to bow to the republic's iron grip.

In real life, many of the militia's ranks are in-between jobs, are full-time dads and have no formal military training, said militia extra Christopher Gallagher.

The Sticky Fingers shoot and other physically challenging scenes -- raids on horseback, battles a across muddy riverbeds -- often tested the group's commitment to the series, which kicked off shooting in Southeastern North Carolina this past July.

"During that time, the weather was not only hot and humid, but basically unforgiving," Gallagher said.

But a cheerful production assistant, Samantha Marie Clark, who was charged with wrangling the mostly male group, was crucial in keeping up morale during the shoots, which often stretched to 14 hours or longer, he said.

"She kept everyone in check, looked after our needs and made sure everyone stayed the course," Gallagher said. "A few of us began calling her Sarge because of her amazing ability to keep everyone in line. Sometime during those days, a few of us decided to form a private Facebook group named after our fearless leader."

Sgt. Sam's Militia was born.

"Most of us haven't been in the military, so we didn't know how to use weapons," he said. "But they taught us how to use black powder muskets and we got to do some other pretty cool stuff."

In addition to background actors, the show is estimated to have hired between 125 and 150 permanent crew members, Wilmington Regional Film Commission Director Johnny Griffin said this week. Griffin said the show was the most expensive TV series to have ever shot here. Production estimates submitted to the state say "Revolution" spent about $2.8 million on each episode, totaling about $56 million.

To commemorate the show's season finale (10 p.m. Monday, June 3, on NBC) and departure from Hollywood East -- season two filming begins in Austin, Texas, the week of June 25 -- Sgt. Sam's Militia will meet at 9 p.m. at The Cellar to watch the final episode filmed here.

They'll share stories and likely hoist a few toasts Clark's way.

"The entire "Revolution" experience has been a blast because we all made such good friends," Gallagher said.

Despite the camaraderie on set, "Revolution," which chronicles the troubles that arise in a world in which the power has been out for 15 years, had a host of filming challenges.

As the show's characters traverse the country, its filmmakers needed to constantly find new places to shoot. The post-apocalyptic story line used few regular set pieces and relied heavily and locations that looked desolate, such as factories like the former Ideal Cement Plant, older buildings and wooded areas.

That meant crews on the road-show worked long hours and sometimes had less than eight hours of turnaround between shoots, costume supervisor Katherine Dover said this week.

"'Revolution' was a really hard show because the producers wanted to do so much in one day," she said. "Part of the issue at the end was that there wasn't a set end date. They kept adding episodes and webisodes. Some designers would rarely get days off."

A switch to a different extras casting agency midway in the first season and a point last summer when some experienced crew members were unavailable because of multiple other productions in the area also complicated work in the wardrobe department, Dover said.

"We had to hire production assistants at times to come and help because there weren't enough costumers. They did their best, but it was a challenge," she said. "I did not have a happy production time on the project."

Several crew members interviewed by the StarNews declined to talk about the show's working environment.

"I would have rather it stayed in North Carolina period -- it would have been good for local crew and easier for the show, but I wouldn't have applied to work on its again if it were to come back to Wilmington," Dover said. "It was too difficult a show for me."

Others have already moved on to other local productions.

A craft services assistant on "Revoltuon," Valerie Robinson, 37, who has worked on various local film and TV productions in the past 15 years, has been hired as a production assistant on season four of "Eastbound and Down," which kicks off production next week, she said.

"'Revolution' was a hard show, but it helped as far as people having jobs," she said. "In film, everything you work on gives you more experience and adds to your resume. But nothing is guaranteed. It's kind of like being a contractor. If you build a house, you aren't necessarily going to get hired to build another one."

Meanwhile, "Revolution's" season finale may see the death of a main character during a Miles/Monroe face-off at the mysterious Colorado Tower.

Apparently, the ladies of the show -- Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Nora (Danielle Alonso) -- also will complicate things further for Miles' (Billy Burke), who can't seem to sort his feelings out.

And for fans who savor every drop of Giancarlo Esposito screen-time, it looks like his character, Tom Neville, and Randall Flynn (Colm Feore) grow nastier and meaner in the final episode.

"Next season will be interesting because there are some big changes coming," said background actor Gallagher. "Maybe it's appropriate for them to move to Texas."

Despite the show's relocation, Sgt. Sam's Militia will soldier on, he said.

Nowadays, the militia members keep in touch with frequent Facebook posts on other local background acting gigs and help one another out by carpooling.

"We'll stick together because of the bonds we formed," Gallagher said.

Cassie Foss: 343-2365

On Twitter: @WilmOnFilm

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(c)2013 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

Visit the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) at www.starnewsonline.com

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