The TV Series ‘Outsiders’ Finds a Home in Millvale
Go behind the scenes to meet set and production designers and artisans who work magic, transforming neighborhoods into rural Kentucky.
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Photos by Douglas Duerring
Linda Lang didn’t know it, but her Millvale home was ready for its close up.
Location scouts for the WGN America, filmed-in-Pittsburgh series “Outsiders” left a letter in Lang’s door in April 2015. They wanted to consider using the exterior of the white, clapboard house as the home of Ledda Dobbs (played by former Pittsburgher Rebecca Harris), the sister of the show’s sheriff, Wade Houghton (Thomas M. Wright).
“Don’t even think about it,” said John Kelly, Lang’s partner of 20 years.
Set crews duplicated a stained glass window during filming of WGN America’s “Outsiders.” Inset: Linda Lang and John Kelly of Millvale
“When I read it, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ and I started to get excited,” Lang recalls a year and a half later, an “Outsiders” ball cap perched proudly atop her head.
“I just called them to see what it was about before I said no,” Lang says.
The next day, 35 people from the “Outsiders” production were on her doorstep with cameras.
“Do you mind if we look inside?” one of the crew members asked. By the time they left, “Outsiders” location manager John Adkins was sold on casting Lang’s house – exterior and interior – in the show’s first season.
“I said, ‘Why would they pick out my house?’” Lang asks. “And they said because it was homey, and that just melted me.”
Kelly says producers liked the home’s location on a hill with hills in the background, which suits “Outsiders.” The show is set in the fictional eastern Kentucky town of Blackburg.
A Millvale police vehicle parked by the education wing of Holy Spirit Parish, which depicts the Crockett County Sheriff’s Department on “Outsiders.”
Adkins returned to talk to Kelly, who explained his concerns. At the time the scouts arrived, he was in recovery from throat cancer and didn’t want the disruption of a film crew while his prognosis remained uncertain.
“At the same time, Linda was born and raised in Millvale,” Kelly says. “Her family goes back five generations here. This house was built in 1899 by her grandparents, and she was raised in this house. This was like the ‘Hollywood Minute’ for Linda and bragging rights at least until the day she dies and maybe after, so I said to Adkins, let’s go ahead and do this for the hell of it.”
Kelly got a good report from his doctor, and soon the “Outsiders” cameras were rolling inside and outside the Lang house in 12 of the first season’s 13 episodes.
(left) actor David Morse and actor Kyle Gallner
“Outsiders” returns for its second season on WGN America on Jan. 24, and Millvale, playing Blackburg, will be even more heavily featured than in season one, according to series creator and executive producer Peter Mattei.
“We have a lot of big things happening in Millvale, and we’re very grateful to that town and the cops and the citizens because we have big marches, car chases, a big, huge parade scene where we utilize all of the people from Millvale Days who came in and helped us,” Mattei says. “Without Millvale, we would not have a show. That town has been so generous to us.”
(left) actor Thomas M. Wright and (in sheriff’s uniform) and Kerry Patton
In season two, the Farrell clan of Shay Mountain — a location played by the woods on the grounds of the Jewish Community Center of Henry Kaufmann Family Park in Monroeville — come into greater conflict with Blackburg townies and the coal company that wants to evict the Farrells to exploit the mountain’s natural resources. Blackburg’s Sheriff Houghton is stuck in the middle.
Creating eastern Kentucky in suburban Pittsburgh can be tricky in some respects — but in others, it’s easy.
“Basically, we’re the Paris of Appalachia anyway, right?” says Elizabeth Township native Barbie Pastorik, a buyer in the show’s set-decorating department. “When I drive into work, I’m driving past hollers, and it’s basically just the Appalachian chain and we’re just part of it.”