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TV drama Mercy Street films Civil War in Virginia

New American Civil War TV drama Mercy Street filmed on location in the state of Virginia and is likely to boost the eastern state’s production profile.

Mercy Street is the first scripted series from US network PBS in a decade and is produced by Ridley Scott’s production company Scott Free.  

The series is inspired by letters of correspondence sent by doctors and nurses at Alexandria’s Mansion House Hospital, a Virginia hotel that was occupied by the Unionists during the 1860s war and turned into a hospital. Specifically, the story focuses on the experiences of two volunteer nurses on either side of the conflict.

“There’s still a lot of historic buildings that are standing in Virginia that we were able to use,” said series co-creator Lisa Wolfinger in comments to local newspaper the Richmond Times-Despatch. “So it’s all practical locations. We didn’t build anything on a soundstage really. It also lent it a feeling of authenticity.”

“We ended up shooting a lot in Petersburg (in south-east Virginia) and basically used it as our Civil War backlot, the same as Spielberg did for Lincoln. The raw structures of the streets, what’s left of the buildings, really lends itself to the Civil War. You don’t have to do much to it.”

Virginia was a key battleground during the Civil War and Richmond was briefly the capital of the short-lived Confederate States of America. 

This sense of history makes Virginia a popular filming location for stories set during the Civil War and earlier, and a base 15% filming incentive helps facilitate production. 

Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning biopic Lincoln filmed in Petersburg and Richmond, and the Revolutionary War series Turn: Washington’s Spies also films in the state.

For more on filming in Virginia see our production guide.