Filming AMC’s “Invitation to a Bonfire” at the Whalehouse in New Bedford
NEW BEDFORD — When Laura Parrish and Thomas Lavin first bought the Whalehouse in 2015they always wondered what it would have been like to experience their home in the early 1900s.
Now their wish has come true with AMC films “Invitation to a Bonfire” on their street.
“One of the reasons I came to New Bedford is because the architecture is so amazing, and I’m glad it’s being highlighted in that capacity. I think it’s amazing,” Parrish said.
The production company returned to the city center on Wednesday to shoot scenes in Custom House Square after transforming shop windows on William Street into 1930s stores in October.
“Everyone downtown was excited and surprised by the shooting, but we had to keep it a secret for almost a year,” Parrish said with a laugh.
The three-story Victorian home, now an Airbnb, once belonged to author’s sister Herman Melville. It was built in 1855 by whaling merchant Henry Taber as a wedding present to his daughter Abby Taber Hunt and later served as a prestigious art school and later as a bed and breakfast.
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“They told us that we had no right to talk about it. We weren’t allowed to post about it. We couldn’t tell our neighbors, our family, they basically said we had to keep this completely secret,” Parrish said.
What is the story?
Set at a girls’ boarding school in New Jersey, the story follows a young Soviet refugee Zoya, who is an outcast at school.
The series stars Tatiana Maslany, known for her title role in the new Disney+/Marvel series “She-Hulk” as well as “Orphan Black”.
Maslany will star alongside Pilou Asbæk as well as Freya Mavor who also appears in the HBOMax series “Industry” and starred alongside John Malkovich in the BBC miniseries “The ABC Murders”.
The story is loosely based on the marriage of Vladimir and Vera Nabokov.
Lavin said he had almost finished the book. “It’s exciting to read it. It reads like a podcast and it’s kind of fun,” he said. “My wife listens to a lot of real crime stuff. And it sounds a lot like that kind of spirit.
The series will be a mystery that revolves around the fact that two people (a husband and his mistress) met an untimely death, but it is not known how it happened until the end.
The crew filmed late into the night on Wednesday, describing the content of the scene as “very promiscuous”, although nothing was seen outside of that nature.
How did AMC choose The Whalehouse?
In March 2022, Parrish said that in his absence, she received a note from a location scout for the TV series hoping to use their house for the show.
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“I just thought he was a lawyer,” Parrish said. “But, we’ve done a lot of filming here in general, it was on Discovery ID, 20/20, A&E and recently highlighted in this New York Times article. The fact that someone from AMC was here in New Bedford was pure luck.
Over the next two months, Parrish and Lavin worked with AMC, with a production crew visiting the house every few weeks.
“They had come two or three more times and basically told us verbally that they were about to pick out the house, but they wanted to know whether or not they could paint the house too,” Parrish added.
When Parrish and Lavin first bought the house, they knew the house would eventually need a major facelift.
“I half-jokingly told Laura when I moved in that we would have Hollywood paint the house,” Lavin said. “I put that in the universe and now…”
AMC helped renovate the exterior of The Whalehouse
In May 2022, they officially signed on for their residence to be used as the main story house for the series, working with AMC to repaint and update the exteriors.
“I wanted to be able to hire the people I wanted to hire because painting a historic house is extremely difficult,” Parrish added. “I wanted a team that could understand and appreciate old houses, and I really wanted to work with someone local.”
Earlier that summer, Parrish had already begun restoring the house’s 72 windows, working with Chuck Hawk from Gallery Xwho was in charge of painting the house when it was last painted in 1983.
Work alongside New Bedford Owl’s Eyea landscaping and painting service, over the next few months the crew took on the major restoration project before filming began in mid-September.
Lavin also worked closely with the team, refurbishing the entire fence that wraps around the entire perimeter of the house.
Filming inside the house is at Randolph
The team scraped, sanded and painted. Parrish said the clapboards in the house were rotten and there was damage from carpenter ants. The front portico also had to be completely rebuilt.
However, the main exterior of the house is constructed with cypress wood which is very durable and rot resistant. “A lot of it could be put back together, but the parts that were replaced, we tried to replace them with the same type of wood,” Parrish said.
AMC added the landscaping a week before filming and recreated the door to the house, along with a false wall and partition. The rest of the furniture in the house was completely removed for filming.
Although filming takes place at the front of the house, the interior of the house will be shot on a 60,000 square foot soundstage at Randolph.
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Parrish said they worked hard to completely copy the interior of the house and recreate it on their stage for filming. She will visit the set next week.
“They’re taking the doors between the set (in Randolph) and my house so they don’t have to recreate two sets of 200-year-old antique doors,” Parrish said. “And then can also match as they move from place to place.”
Use the whole neighborhood
Meanwhile, neighbors are also stepping in to host the film crew with the house across the street offering their backyard for craft services, which provide food and drink to TV crews. and cinema.
Streets around Madison were closed, so neighbors were asked to park their cars a few blocks away. The law firms of Lang, Xifaras and Bullard on Orchard Street, also offered their driveway to the crew.
On Wednesday, two giant cranes approached the house to create giant floodlights above the house to add more light for nighttime filming.
The adjoining house, once used by visiting artists and faculty at the Swain School of Art and Design, is the Green Room for hosting actors as well as hair and makeup.
“I’m so happy to have been able to share my home and everyone has been so lovely and kind and welcoming to me,” Donna Torres said.
Torres made the cast and crew beef stew on the first day and the kale soup on the second. “I always want to feed people,” she says with a smile.
She had the chance to meet actor Asbæk, who plays Leo in the series. He is best known for his performance as Euron Greyjoy in “Games of Thrones”.
“He says the quote: ‘Here I am, with a thousand ships and two good hands’, so I told him that I don’t have a thousand ships, but I have two good hands and they are here to serve”, a- she said, adding that the actor was down-to-earth and great fun to be around for a few minutes.
“We took a selfie together! »
Filming will continue mid-February
Parrish said they kept Airbnb open over the summer because people had already booked the rooms. “We book at least three months in advance,” she said.
“There were times when it was a little less than ideal. But I’m incredibly grateful that because we have guests who come to stay here, because they appreciate old historic homes, a lot of people were really delighted to meet our team.
The rental will be closed until the end of the first half of filming in mid-December.
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Parrish said “Invitation to a Bonfire” will be back from January through mid-February. Filming will continue downtown as well as on Madison Street. The house is also attached to be available for filming if the series is renewed for a second season.
“It’s magical. Not just for us, but it’s something that energizes the whole community,” Lavish said.
“That we’re able to do something that elevates all of New Bedford, seeing the whole town benefit hugely from it – it’s amazing.”
Seth Chitwood, Standard-Times editor, can be contacted at [email protected]. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.