Rob Streeck of LaPlace, center, in TNT's crime drama, 'Memphis Beat'
LaPlace resident Rob Streeck was minding his own business, watering his lawn one afternoon, when a pair of police cars zoomed past him on U.S. 51.Startled at first, Streeck was really surprised when he looked up to see "Memphis Police" stickers on the side of the cars.
"I thought, 'Wow. That's one heck of a long police chase, all the way from Memphis,'" Streeck said.
Then he spotted the pair of St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's Office cars blocking off the street at each end.
"I walked over and asked what was going on," Streeck said. "And the cop told me they were filming some movie called 'Memphis Beat.'"
A couple of mouse clicks on the computer later, and Streeck had all the information he needed. And, not long after that, he also had a job as a featured extra, playing, what else, a cop.
"I pointed to my (bald) head and said, 'I have cop hair,'" said Streeck, who actually is a music instructor. "They said, 'Go to wardrobe.'"
Memphis Beat, starring Jason Lee and Alfre Woodard, is a crime drama about an Elvis-loving cop and his quirky group of associates who solve crimes in and around the city of Memphis.
But Louisiana offers all sorts of tax incentives to the film industry, and LaPlace has a big, brand new, state-of-the art civic center that a lot of film companies have come to love because of its size and sound stage amenities. LaPlace also has a rather unique style of architecture that, apparently, resembles that of Memphis, along with a lot of picturesque locales throughout the River Parishes area.
So that is how LaPlace, Louisiana, has become the television stand-in for Memphis, Tennessee.
"It really has been a miracle for us," said Chris Morgan, the producer and unit production manager for the show, whose father Harry played Col. Sherman T. Potter on the long-running series M*A*S*H. "Our office is in Metairie, but our stage and everything we do is in St. John Parish."
In addition to the location right off interstate 10, Morgan said the civic center's interior amenities are "ideal."
"A lot of these people aren't from here and it takes them a while to get used to this heat and humidity," he said."But the sound stage is air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. It's quiet. It's just off the interstate. It's ideal."
And River Parishes residents have become accustomed to being a part of Hollywood South, learning to recognize the ubiquitous yellow signs pointing the way for cast and crew. Several movies have used the area as backdrops, including Interview With the Vampire, Monster's Ball and Glory Road.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt, was the first feature film to use the St. John Civic Center cum movie set.
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