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Posted: March 19, 2013 10:42 p.m.

ABC pilot to film downtown this week

A pilot for a new paranormal-themed ABC drama will be filming in Covington later this week, as the iconic downtown square has attracted yet another production.

“The Returned” is a new show based on an upcoming book by author Jason Mott that explores a bizarre scenario in which people around the world see their deceased loved ones mysteriously come back to life and return to town as if nothing had ever happened.

The show was location scouted in part by Angie Dean Morrison, who worked on “The Vampire Diaries” for the first two years of its production in Covington. Though the phenomenon of dead people returning to life takes place around the globe, the TV show will center on the small Midwestern town of Arcadia, which will be played by Covington.

“Covington is the perfect size for a typical “small town” — the buildings are not too big, not too small; film friendly; has no train that runs right through town; traffic around the square is relatively easy to control; and it’sjust beautiful and picturesque,” Morrison said in an email when asked why production officials chose Covington.

Filming will take place from approximately 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday on the square and in the Newton County Judicial Center. Some parking spaces in front of the courthouse and around the square may be blocked off. In addition, Hays and Hunter streets will also be blocked off Thursday and Friday and likely Saturday for preparation, but not until after 5 p.m.; Morrison said crews are trying to keep the filming impact low.

According to a representative with ABC, who spoke on background, the pilot will be a one-hour show, but it will only air on ABC if it gets picked up by the network to run as a series, which show officials will find out in May.

The representative said she didn’t know whether the show would film in Georgia if it was picked and said it depended upon the production budget.

In addition to filming in Covington, the pilot also has scenes being filmed in Norcross.

There’s also no guarantee that Covington would remain as a filming location, but “Covington was best-suited to the story out of all of the small towns in Georgia that the producers scouted,” Morrison said.

The show has star power attached to it as Brad Pitt’s film production company Plan B Entertainment is involved with the project, which is being written for TV by “Criminal Minds” Aaron Zelman.

Two of the more prominent actors attached to the project are Omar Epps and Kurtwood Smith, who has been in “RoboCop,” “That 70’s Show” and “The Dead Poets Society” among other productions.

In addition to filming in downtown Covington, the show will also film at Old Church located at Oxford College.

Though there were rumors that the show included zombies, Morrison assured the Covington City Council that there were no zombies or vampires in the show.

“Covington has a special place in my heart. Any time I read a script and think of Covington, I’ll always try to bring things here,” said Morrison, who lived in Covington previously, but now lives elsewhere in Georgia.

The show will include shots of the exterior and interior of the Historic Courthouse, the second floor hallway of the Newton County Judicial Center and the records room on the third floor of the judicial center, as well as driving shots around the square and on Floyd Street, according to documents submitted to the city.

The council unanimously approved a permit for filming.

In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Mott said that literary classics from “The Odyssey” to movies like “Soylent Green” influenced his writing, but the idea for “The Returned” came from a reoccurring dream about his deceased mother.

“In July 2010, I had a dream that I’d come home from work and found her sitting at my dining room table, waiting for me,” he told the magazine.

However, he said the strangest part of the dream was how undream-like and ordinary it seemed.

“For the course of the entire dream, we simply talked. I told her about my life since her death. We just caught up, talking about grad school and life in general.

“We shared something only possible within the confines of the dream: a conversation between a mother and son,” he told Publisher’s Weekly.

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