An Afternoon on Detroit's Klenk Island: Filming AMC's Cop Show

May 11, 2013, 6:00 AM by  Allan Lengel

On Klenk Island, a dead-end street on a canal on Detroit’s far east side,  things are usually fairly quiet. People go fishing and boating. They walk their dogs, sip beer and exchange friendly banter. And they savor the anonymity of their neighborhood that feels more like a weekend getaway spot up north. 

On Wednesday afternoon, things were very different. There were video cameras, big lights and trucks and crew members with earpieces and radios. There were police signs forbidding street parking and people in authoritative voices repeatedly shouting “Rolling, quiet pease!”  and “Cut!”  And there were the neighbors, standing around, looking quite amused.

Hollywood had arrived for the afternoon.

Stephanie Stevens and Clyde Guensche, owner of the East Bar Detroit, live on the block.

“It’s amazing, it’s very exciting,” said Stephanie Stevens, who lives on the block.

Under a rich blue sky dotted with thin trails of clouds, producers of AMC’s upcoming Detroit cop show, “Low Winter Sun” were filming episode two at a house on Klenk Island, aka Klenk Street,  just off Alter Road, west of the Grosse Pointe Park border. 

Exterior and Interior Scenes

The cable series, which premieres Aug. 11, was filming at a towering home with yellow siding.

Lennie James of “The Walking Dead” and “Hung”, who plays a morally ambiguous Detroit detective named Joe, pulled his black Ford Crowne Vic up and down the driveway several times as cameras rolled. There were film crews in the backyard on the canal, and in front. On the show, the house belongs to James’ mother and he lives there with her. 

After a while, the crew and actors moved inside to shoot dialogue scenes.

The Hollywood set just didn’t show up out of nowhere on Klenk Island.

Ryan Shaw, assistant location manager for "Low Winter Sun," who lives locally, scouted the area along the canal at the prompting of the show's producer, Charles Carroll of Los Angeles, who is renting a home in a nearby neighborhood, Harbor Island.

“He’s in love with this area to begin with,” Shaw said.

Shaw says there was plenty preliminary work before the producers picked an ideal house. He knocked on doors up and down the street and checked out the best site.  

“Whenever, we secure a location, we then have to make sure our neighbors are taken care of,” he says. “We give inconvenience fees to the neighbors We give them something because we’re going to be in their driveway.”

Neighbor Enjoys 'All the Fun'

The crew filmed outside and inside Jeffry White's house.

Kim Ehlert, a neighbor who was outside watching, hoped the show was going to pick her house. “They looked at our house and they looked at our backyard,” she said.

Instead, they picked Jeffry White's yellow house across the street that has three apartments inside.

Ehlert said she's happy for White. “It’s pretty cool. I’m glad I had the day off from work today.  My husband is working, he’s missing out on all the fun.”

At White’s house, they show repainted his walls and brought in 1970s furniture temporarily. White says he’ll leave the painted walls as is.

“This is fun to see how they do a TV series,” White says.

White and a friend, Jerry Williams, got to be extras who rode along the canal in White’s 19-foot Monark boat as the cameras fixed on them.

“That was me roaring in the boat down the canal,” he said, adding: “Now my nieces and nephew will take me to show and tell at at school since I’ve been in a TV series.”

He declined to say how how much the show paid to use his place. But the woman in an apartment below said she got a $100 inconvenience fee.

Food and Fixtures

The show brought plenty of conveniences for the crew. There were lots of snacks: Chips and pretzels and juices and wrap sandwiches and coffee cake. There also were amazing, luxury portable bathrooms, the kind you’d expect to see if President Obama were in need.

Detroit cop Ira Todd gives pointers to actor Lennie James.

Unlike the one we’re accustomed to, where you hold your breath and hope for the best, these were actually like real bathrooms, with a sink. And oh yes, spotless.

During the a break in the filming, late in the afternoon,  the actor Lenny James walked up to Ira Todd, a plainclothed Detroit cop who works as a part time consultant for the show.  In the show, James runs home to change clothes.

So James asked Todd: When he comes home, what does he remove. His gun? His badge?

Todd said he always does it the same way: The badge, then the gun. 

After wrapping up, the equipment was packed up and the filming moved to the Boston-Edison area of Detroit to shoot well into the night. 

After this episode, the show will film eight more. The pilot was filmed last fall. 

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