Charlotte-based TV drama “Delilah” premieres tonight on OWN

Charlotte-based TV drama “Delilah” premieres tonight on OWN

L to R: Harper Omereoha (played by Ozioma Akagha), Delilah (played by Maahra Hill) and Demetria Barnes (played by Susan Heyward). Courtesy of OWN.

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A new OWN drama series called “Delilah” puts Charlotte in the spotlight. Catch the series premiere tonight at 9 p.m.

Why it matters: Charlotte has hosted other notable productions (“Homeland” from 2011-13, “Talladega Nights” in 2006), but few projects shot here portray Charlotte as Charlotte. “Delilah” does.

What to expect: You’ll see skyline shots and references to the city throughout the show, as well as some familiar faces like Mayor Vi Lyles, who appears in the series as Charlotte’s mayor.

“Television story telling is a really really powerful medium and you see major corporations … use it for product placement. In this case Charlotte is the product,” Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith tells me.

Last week the Foundation for the Carolinas and Center City Partners co-hosted a virtual early screening of the show. The event started with a special message from Oprah to Charlotte and ended with a roundtable talk between some of the show cast and crew and Charlotte leaders.

Delilah, OWN, Oprah, Charlotte

A shot from Delilah’s first episode showing the Brooklyn Memories mural on South Brevard St.

About the show: The series follows the life of a headstrong lawyer and single mother, Delilah Connolly, played by Maahra Hill.

  • Instead of “aspirational” characters of color, Delilah’s leading ladies are already successful.
  • “Quite often when a person of color is portrayed on a show, and thank God this is shifting… it’s sort of one path, it’s very myopic,” director/producer Charles Randolph-Wright tells me.

Background: Randolph-Wright, a York County, SC native, tells me he’s excited to portray the Queen City. Among other projects, he directed “Motown the Musical” on Broadway and multiple episodes of the show “Greenleaf.”

He says this project was “the most challenging thing (he’s) ever been involved in,” in large part because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone in Charlotte … they just worked so diligently to make this happen,” he adds. “Just gave completely (all) of themselves to do the very best we could in a really challenging situation.”

Charlotte film, Delilah, OWN, Charles Randloph-Wright, Oprah Winfrey Network

Courtesy of OWN and Charlotte Center City Partners.

The big picture: A change to North Carolina’s film tax incentive program in 2014, along with the economic hit from HB2, led to a decrease in production in the area. Projects like “Delilah” represent a recent uptick in films and shows coming back to Charlotte. [Go deeper]

  • The movie adaptation of Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” will start filming here in April. (They’re looking for extras!)
  • “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” starring Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield as the PTL’s Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker premieres in September.

FFTC President and CEO Michael Marsicano, who appears as an extra in an episode, says he’s hopeful more productions choose to film in Charlotte.

  • Fun fact: Marsicano and his wife Leslie have been friends with Randolph-Wright since attending undergrad at Duke University. “To watch his career over the years, and to be in a position where we both collaborated — me a very minor role — in making this happen in Charlotte where he grew up, it’s just joyful,” Marsicano tells me. “Pure joy.”

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