HAMPTON — Almost 1,000 TV extra wannabes flocked to sleepy Fort Monroe on Saturday for a chance to be in a new show.
While many thought it would just be "cool" to appear in a one-hour television pilot in development for the CW network, several residents hoped to one day see the former Army base bustling with production crews and tourists wanting to see the setting of a popular TV drama.
"I think this TV show will give it a lot more recognition, definitely," 20-year-old cinema lover Graham Spady of Hampton said, adding he hopes Fort Monroe becomes a film destination.
If CBS Television Studios' "Company Town" pilot gets picked up by the network and the show continues filming in Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell envisions up to a $50 million annual economic impact for the region, according to a news release. That's why the Virginia Film Office sought to make Fort Monroe and Hampton Roads the setting for Academy Award-winning director Taylor Hackford's story of a female commander who takes over operations at a Naval base in the aftermath of a scandal, according to online reports.
Project plans call for scenes about the child of the naval commander to be filmed at Hampton High School starting the first week in April, said Hampton City Schools spokeswoman Ann Stephens-Cherry. More notices for extras casting will be posted at the school.
On Saturday, about 975 people streamed through the doors of Paradise Ocean Club to wait in line for an hour to drop off head shots or take photos and talk about their availability for shooting, said extras casting director Jeanne Boisineau of Richmond.
"That's all I need," Boisineau told one hopeful as 100 more waited in line. "Next."
One exception to the long wait was a Salvation Army brass band from Washington D.C. They were shuffled through for a group shot within five minutes.
Eight-year-old Elysa came with Hampton dad Donnell Lattimore, who was an extra in the film "Troop 491." She said she loves the spotlight.
"This is my entire dream: to be on TV," the girl said.
Caitlin Williams, an 18-year-old Kecoughtan High senior, signed up with her boyfriend, Spady. If the show airs, they will watch for their friends and Hampton landmarks.
Destini LaCour, a 17-year-old Hampton Roads Academy junior, felt like she had a good shot, as the casting director needed several hundred extras, including high school-aged students. Her mom, Tara LaCour, encouraged the future business major to go for it. The mother said the closing of Fort Monroe was bittersweet — while she misses the military presence, she enjoys visiting the water-encircled historic site and hopes other companies feel the same and move in. If the TV show works out, she hopes crews stay in town to boost local business.
"It's an excellent location for filming," Tara LaCour said. "I think it'll show America how beautiful this place is."