The filming of a television series that will tell the story of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, will begin in Greenwood in January.
The first season of “Women of the Movement” will include six episodes and will air on ABC. The episodes will explore the murder of Emmett Till and the events surrounding his death in 1955.
The process of bringing this production to the area had newly added challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Danielle Morgan, executive director of the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Morgan, who also acts as a local liaison to the Mississippi Film Office, said Greenwood tourism officials have worked with location and production staff for months to finalize all the details.
“While this is a hard story to tell, it is an important one, and it belongs in Mississippi. We had some intense competition from other states, but ultimately, we had built a great relationship with the project’s leadership through our unmatched Mississippi hospitality,” Morgan said in a statement. “Our community came together to provide the incentives necessary to keep the project in Greenwood.”
According to the production team, multiple opportunities for vendors, hotels, restaurants, site locations and background actors will be available once filming starts.
“This production will provide an incredible boost to our economy during a time when our hardest-hit hospitality industry is struggling. It will also create jobs and other business opportunities for Greenwood, resulting in millions of dollars in economic impact and potential for long-term tourism impact as well,” Morgan said.
Emmett Till, a Black 14-year-old from Chicago, was tortured and killed after whistling at a white woman at Bryant Grocery and Meat Market in Money.
Two white men were acquitted by an all-white jury in his death but later admitted in a magazine interview that they had killed him.
Mamie Till-Mobley demanded an open-casket funeral.
Published photographs of the service, including one of her looking at her son’s mutilated body, are often credited with spurring the civil rights movement.
She remained a civil rights activist in honor of her son for the rest of her life. She died in 2003.
Fittingly, the project was greenlighted on Aug. 28, the 65th anniversary of Till’s death.
Producer Michael Lohmann and location manager Wendall Hinkle — who have both worked on such projects as the television show “Nashville” and the biographical television movie “Patsy & Loretta” — spoke to the Leflore County Board of Supervisors in October about using parts of the county as locations for the series, saying that the Leflore County Civic Center would be an optimal location. According to them, the Civic Center provides a great space for set building.
Also, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cast and crew must be separated from the general public as much as possible, and the Civic Center’s size and privacy would help, Hinkle said.
During that meeting, Lohmann said the production team plans to do 75% of the filming in and around Greenwood to make the series as authentic as possible. Other proposed locations include Sumner and Memphis.
“Women of the Movement,” a multimillion-dollar production, was inspired by Devery Anderson’s book, “Emmett Till: The Murder that Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement.”
Casting is still being determined, but 2020 Tony Award nominee Adrienne Warren is set to play Mamie Till-Mobley, and Niecy Nash of television shows “Reno 911!” and “Claws” will play Emmett Till’s grandmother, Alma.
The series is being written and produced by Marissa Jo Cerar, who is best known for her work on the Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale” and the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why.” The project's numerous executive producers include rapper Jay-Z and actor Will Smith.
Gina Prince-Bythewood, best known for directing the films “Love & Basketball” and “The Secret Life of Bees,” is set to direct the first episode.