Village built in Richmond Hill to depict slave camp for Emmy-nominated Amazon series

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 11:38 AM EDT
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RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WTOC) - One of the shows up for a top award at the 2021 Emmy Awards was shot on location around the Coastal Empire.

Earlier this summer, WTOC took you to Richmond Hill where the Amazon series “The Underground Railroad” was filmed. At that time, some of the sets were off limits. Now, we’re getting a first look at those spots and hearing from the man who designed them.

“A little over two years ago...did not exist. It was brainstormed drawn, and then built by these very gifted folks that create movie magic,” said Buck Meeks, Curator at Myrtle Grove in Richmond Hill.

Meeks is no stranger to films shot on the property, but this was something different.

“It’s all very powerful and poignant and I was impressed. I really was impressed,” Meeks said.

Tucked in a field on Myrtle Grove sits a village that looks like it was plucked from the 1800s. The dilapidated shacks were home to some of the main characters in the Amazon Prime series “The Underground Railroad.”

“We were trying to find the humanity in that community, and therefore it mandated us building it and it mandated us doing a good job,” said Mark Friedberg, Production Designer for “The Underground Railroad.”

Friedberg pushed for the series’ first episode to be shot in the Savannah area and knew he’d found the perfect location when Meeks showed him the property in Richmond Hill.

“He had this awesome array of topographies to work with and landscapes, but the field that he took me to, the area that we built the slave quarter in, was what sealed it for me,” Friedberg said.

Ten cabins dot the nine-acre site where Friedberg’s team also built a blacksmith shop, woodshed, and cook house, and nestled it all around angel oaks and cane fields.

“Relative to an hour of programming that was a lot of work. It’s unusual to be able to put that much detailed effort into a set for one hour. You typically build a set like that for a season that was set in a place like that,” explained Friedberg.

“They absolutely sweated the last detail on it. It was very impressive to watch the process, was very impressive to see the Craftsmen at work,” Meeks said.

The end result is a village that mirrors the scars and the resilience of the characters who called it home. A humbling backdrop for those who had the chance to tell this story.

“I was lucky to be a part of it. I was able to have one of the more profound, emotional, political and sociological experiences I’ve ever had and for that I’m very grateful,” said Meeks.

“The Underground Railroad” was nominated for seven Emmys, including Best Limited Series.

The Emmys will air on WTOC Sunday night at 8 p.m.

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