Thanksgiving is a very big time in the US, when people do anything to get home to the family and turkey dinner. This year National Geographic’s biggest scripted series ever tells the story of the first Thanksgiving, when British settlers on the Mayflower landed at Cape Cod in 1620, except it was all shot near another Cape – Cape Town.
“Saints & Strangers”, a two-part epic, debuts 22 November in the US, four days before Thanksgiving is celebrated this year, and tells the story of the ship’s November 1620 landing and the relationship between the first colonists and the Native Americans who greeted them. The cast includes Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”), Ray Stevenson (who was in another Cape Town-shot TV series, ““Black Sails”) and Raoul Trujillo (“Apocalypto”), who wears authentic Abenaki Indian clothing.
On the set of “Saints & Strangers”, see if you can spot the local settings.
Much of the series was shot at the Cape Town Film Studios and Rustenberg wine estate, although going from the trailers, it’s so well concealed that it’s hard to tell.
The set designers built a replica of the first permanent British colony in America, according to Variety magazine, and fashioned everything from wooden colonial houses to rifles to period costumes.
The makers of the production and the actors all seemed to rave about the South African team that recreated the 17th-century American setting and the detail of the Native Indian villages and the colonial structures, and said what a difference it made to their performances.
In this video, Bianca Prinsloo, a set dresser, talks about the detail that went into making a simulacrum of the 17th-century homes and villages.
“It’s such a can-do place,” executive producer Gina Matthews told the magazine, noting the South African crew’s attention to detail. “The show is, to a T, historically accurate. It’s not an interpretation – it’s our history.”
The series was filmed in July and August, according to Variety, and the crew used fake snow and imported trees from New England to create the New World setting of 1620 Massachusetts. Post-production relied on CGI to scrub out the surrounding mountains and add the water of Plymouth Bay, it said.
National Geographic also shot scenes of its “Battle of Gettysberg” on the Rustenberg wine farm, according to the estate’s website.