Shelburne waterfront awash with actors, crew for Book of Negroes shoot

Published on May 5, 2014

Dock Street in Shelburne was bustling with cast, crew and extras as filming began in earnest on the Book of Negroes production on Monday morning.

Filming will be ongoing in the area until Thursday.

Set construction was conducted at a rapid pace on Dock Street last week in preparation for filming of the six-part mini-series here.

Paved areas of Dock Street have been covered with dirt and traffic is being rerouted around the area as the production crews have recreated Shelburne from more than 225 years ago.

Filming in South Africa wrapped up last month and segments of the mini-series based on the Lawrence Hill novel, have already been shot in Cape Breton at Fort Louisbourg. Filming also took place in Cole Harbour where a replica of 18th century Birchtown had been created.

Casting for extras took place in early April for the Shelburne shoots at the Loyalist Inn Hotel on Water Street.

The production company Conquering Lions Pictures is using Shelburne to represent the early Loyalist town of Shelburne as it was highlighted in the novel.

Once the Shelburne scenes are complete, producers plan to move to Lunenburg for five days of shooting scenes.

The Shelburne shoots will focus on Dock Street and will include filming on the Freedom Schooner Amistad, which has made a special trip from the U.S.

The Canadian company partnering in the production, Conquering Lion Pictures, is an independent production company based in Toronto and is under the leadership of Damon D'Oliveira and Clement Virgo, The company’s films have in the past been selected for Cannes, Berlin, Sundance and TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival), and have been sold around the world.

The story follows Aminata Diallo, who is kidnapped from West Africa at the dawn of the 18th century, survives a harrowing Atlantic crossing, is separated from her love and must navigate the American Revolution before returning to Sierra Leone, and ultimately securing her freedom in England.

Shelburne, Birchtown and the Black Loyalists all figure prominently in the novel.

Producers plan to eventually donate pieces of the set and other memorabilia from the production to the Black Loyalist Heritage Museum in Birchtown.

A documentary about the making of the film will also be offered to the museum.

Some big name actors are a part of the multi-national television project.

Cuba Gooding Jr. is an Oscar-winning actor who has appeared in many films in his career including Pearl Harbour, Radio, Jerry MacGuire, Men of Honour and Red Tails among others.

Lou Gossett Jr. is another Oscar winner, Emmy winner and veteran actor with a career reaching back into the 1950s and many credits behind him including noted roles in the TV series Roots and movies An Officer and A Gentleman and Iron Eagle.

Aunjanue Ellis is known for her roles in The Help, Ray and The Mentalist.

The BET network is joining forces with CBC and eOne to present the mini-series, which will air in Canada and the U.S.

The cast will also include the SAW franchise's Lyriq Bent who will be joined by actors Ben Chaplin and Allan Hawco along with four-time Oscar nominee Jane Alexander (Kramer vs. Kramer, All the President's Men).