Get ready for the plot to thicken as ABC’s newest murder mystery pilot “Secrets & Lies” begins production in the Wilmington area.
Set in the Charlotte suburbs, the series will follow Ben Garner, a family man whose life is upended when he stumbles across the body of the 4-year-old boy who lived across the street. Ben quickly becomes the prime suspect in the boy’s murder.
The series, based on a yet-to-air Australian series, marks the return of several familiar faces to the Wilmington film industry, including Ryan Phillippe, who will be revisiting the Port City after filming the teen horror classic “I Know What You Did Last Summer” in 1997. Phillippe will headline the series as Ben, a man desperate to find the real killer before he loses his marriage, his kids, his reputation and his sanity.
Juliette Lewis, who visited in 2011 to film the drama “Hick,” will play Andrea Cornell, the detective investigating the boy’s murder. Natalie Martinez will step away from the uniform she wears as Sheriff Linda Esquivel on the locally filmed CBS series “Under the Dome,” which starts production on season two Monday, to star as Jess, the grieving mother of the victim.
Also in the mix are KaDee Strickland (“Private Practice”) as Ben’s wife, Christy, whose feelings toward her husband are complicated by the accusations against him; and Clifton Collins Jr. (“Pacific Rim”), a longtime friend of Ben’s who lives in the Garners’ poolhouse and remains loyal to Ben.
The pilot will be directed by Charles McDougall, who won an Emmy in 2005 for directing the first episode of “Desperate Housewives.”
While making her way to town, Lewis has been vocal on social media, using Twitter to tell her fans, “I can not begin to explain to you how excited I am about my new job.” She also asked fans to suggest famous film and TV detectives to give her inspiration for the series. On Tuesday, Lewis did some in-the-field research of her own by shadowing two Wilmington Police Department detectives. Along with a picture of the men she spent time with, Lewis sent a message over Instagram, saying, “Playing a detective so I’m hanging with detectives.”
Leading up to the start of production Friday, crews have been transforming a section of a Porter’s Neck neighborhood into the idyllic neighborhood. To accommodate the pilot’s Christmastime setting, crews have been decorating homes with wreaths and lights, while painting the grass green so it would match if crews return.
Producer Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment said the decision to shoot in Wilmington came down to how to illustrate the effect of a horrific crime on a small town.
“When we were trying to decide where to shoot this, one of the most important things for us was that we had to pick an American city that felt very safe, very bucolic and a place that would be rattled by something like the murder of a child,” Kaplan said. “We came to Wilmington because Wilmington to us is an amazing place – it is peaceful and calm, and a big strong sense of community. A place that feels pure in many ways.”