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New Apple TV+ show ‘Manhunt’ uses Philly theater to re-create Lincoln’s assassination

Henry Savage – The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

A new Apple TV+ show that follows the hunt for Abe Lincoln’s assassin is being brought to life by a Philadelphian, with some of the most iconic parts of the show being filmed in a local historic theater.

“Manhunt,” a conspiracy thriller based on the nonfiction book of the same name, will see Lincoln’s secretary of war and close friend Edwin Stanton track down John Wilkes Booth after he assassinates the president. The showrunner, creator, executive producer, and a writer of the show, Monica Beletsky, grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Julia R. Masterman High School.

But the Philadelphia connection doesn’t stop there. The production found that Philly has just the right amount of historical architecture and landscapes to set a period piece in. They utilized local parks, period-accurate mansions and theaters.

“Philly has the largest park system of any American city and a wide variety of architecture, along with some of the most creative and passionate people,” Beletsky said. “The locations in Philly were spectacular and period-correct. It was challenging to find a period mansion with ample undeveloped land around it anywhere else, but the Philly parks offered that.”

The “Manhunt” crew has re-imagined Kimmel Center’s Miller Theater and converted it into the 19th-century Ford Theater in Washington, D.C., the scene of the crime. The Miller Theater was built in 1912, less than 50 years after Lincoln’s assassination.

“Finding a theater like Ford’s with a balcony close enough to the stage to execute a stunt was very difficult, and the Miller Theater was ideal. We couldn’t drill anything into the walls to preserve it, so our team got really creative with how we staged it,” Beletsky said of filming in the theater.

Beletsky, the daughter of a Philadelphia public school teacher, has writing and producing credits on several shows over the last decade such as FX’s “Fargo,” NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” HBO’s “The Leftovers” and NBC’s “Parenthood.”

The seven-episode miniseries will star Tobias Menzies of “Game of Thrones” and “Outlander” fame as Stanton, while Booth is played by Anthony Boyle. Abraham Lincoln is portrayed by Hamish Linklater who previously played an antagonist in Netflix’s “Midnight Mass.” Additional cast includes Lovie Simone, Lili Taylor and Brandon Flynn.

“I would love for the Philly audience to tune in and see how beautiful the city looks on film; many extras in the assassination sequence are Philly residents,” Beletsky said.

“Manhunt” debuts with its first two episodes on Friday, March 15, on Apple TV+.

©2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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