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PBS series filmed in Virginia

 Neal Huff and Jeanine Serralles star in the PBS series 'The Abolitionists.'
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Date published: 1/8/2013


Steven Spielberg and his critically acclaimed movie "Lincoln" isn't the only show in town.

Petersburg, rich in historic buildings and locations, recently has been the scene of three history-based film productions. One production filmed there--"The Abolitionists"--premieres tonight on PBS' "American Experience," television's most popular history show.

The documentary series depicts the struggles of five men and women and their fight to end slavery in America. Bringing to life the intertwined stories of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimke, Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown, the series combines drama with traditional documentary storytelling

It will premiere as a special presentation in three parts on "American Experience," from 9 to 10 p.m. tonight, Jan. 15 and Jan. 22 on PBS.

The series was shot on location in Petersburg, Richmond and Powhatan County in the spring of 2012 for "American Experience," television's most-watched history series. The series is being released in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued Jan. 1, 1863.

A crew of about 50 arrived in Petersburg last April, setting up base camp at Union Station. For two days, they filmed at Centre Hill Mansion, the George Dundgeon House, Cockade Alley and the Farmers Market, among other places.

"We decided to come to Petersburg because it is a historic place with a variety of great locations," said Sharon Grimberg, executive producer of "The Abolitionists,"

Many of the crew were hired regionally. Some 125 extras and actors were part of the production, many coming from the Richmond area.

"It's been a wonderful experience working with the locals and people were incredibly nice," talent coordinator Nancy Sherman said. "Everybody was very excited to be part of this."

"The Abolitionists" was directed by Rob Rapley and stars former NBC "Law & Order" actors Neal Huff as William Lloyd Garrison and Richard Brooks as Frederick Douglass. The series also stars Jeanine Serralles, Kate Lyn Sheil and Broadway veteran T. Ryder Smith as John Brown, whose failed raid at a federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., is considered a key event leading up to the Civil War.

"We are honored that Virginia was chosen for the filming of this important documentary series that examines one of the most difficult and divisive chapters in American history," said Andy Edmunds of the Virginia Film Office.

"The Abolitionists" is the second of three film projects shot in Petersburg that take place in the Civil War era and examines similar theme.

In addition to Spielberg's "Lincoln," the National Geographic Channel will air a two-hour special in February titled "Killing Lincoln." Based on the bestselling book of the same name by Bill O'Reilly, the film centers on the plot by John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln and destroy the government of the United States in the hopes that the Confederacy would rise from the ashes.