‘It really gets the community excited’: Petersburg becoming Hollywood hot spot

The Tri-Cities

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Production crews from Focus Features are flocking to Petersburg to film the upcoming movie “Harriet.”

City leaders appreciate seeing Petersburg become a Hollywood hot spot. Lights, cameras and tents can be spotted throughout the city as filming for the movie “Harriet” is in full swing. 

“It really gets the community excited,” Martha Atkinson, the Petersburg Preservation Museum’s director, said.

“We have the real deal here,” Dean McCray, with the Petersburg Preservation Task Force, said. He’s referring to Petersburg’s rich history and historic buildings that attract film crews. 

“They come down, they look around, they fall in love with it,” McCray said.

“Those 18th and 19th-century buildings provide a backdrop or actual set if you will,” Atkinson said. 

There is also the money Petersburg brings in by having film crews in the city. 

“We’re looking forward to the after-effects. The after effects, the economic effects, the tourism, the businesses profiting and of course, the notoriety that Petersburg has, so we bring more people here,” McCray said. 

David “DJ” Payne, from DJ Rajun Cajun Bar and Grill, has seen an uptick in business since production started.

“It brings a lot of the camera crew, a lot of people that come in they do visit our local restaurants,” DJ Payne said.  

Other recent films shot in Petersburg include Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” and “Ithaca” starring Meg Ryan. Locals are already looking forward to seeing “Harriet.”

“They’ll start looking just like I do at the background and to see who we know in the film,” Atkinson said.  

“Harriet” will feature two Tony winners, Cynthia Eviro, who stars in the musical “The Color Purple” and Leslie Odom Jr., an actor from “Hamilton.” 

Production in the city is expected to go into next week. 

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