ABC’s ‘Detroit 1-8-7’ highlights real neighborhoods of Detroit

It's the story of homicide detectives in one of the nation's largest cities.

In its three months on the air, "Detroit 187" has proven to be a hit with millions of viewers tuning to ABC12 every Tuesday night for the crime drama.

Many people didn't know what to expect at first, especially from a show with the number 187 -- California's former police code for homicide.

The show has actually breathed new life into the city and even the state.

Tucked away in a former Metro Detroit automotive plant, Hollywood magic is being made. It's home to "Detroit 187," ABC's new police drama that has captured the attention of audiences across the country.

Michael Imperioli, formerly of "The Sopranos," plays the lead character in the show, Det. Louis Fitch.

"By shooting here, we've been able to get a clearer picture of what the city is, which has been a big advantage," Imperioli said.

The cast is made up of eight actors from different backgrounds and experience levels. Every week they come together to form the homicide unit in the Detroit Police Department as they work to solve some of the city's most high-profile crimes.

"On the work side, we're all kind of falling into it and getting a rhythm down. On screen, I think it's just developing more with characters in the story getting kind of thicker, and you have these relationships with people and detectives and stuff," actor Natalie Martinez said.

"We were on the same page with the writers and producers, and we knew what they wanted. They are genuinely interested in the history of the city, the people. I feel like they wanted that to come across in their writing," said actor Jon Michael Hill.

In the show's short time on the air, the actors say it is clear the huge difference the show is making when it comes down to the city's image.

"There's a category of people who just pat you on the back because they enjoy seeing their city represented, watching the stories, and I think we are doing a good job of doing that," said actor James McDaniel.

Actor Erin Cummings thinks the show has represented itself well.

"There is an energy now that people have seen what the show is, and they know it's sending a positive message about Detroit. Now that it's a known thing, people are behind it," Cummings said.

"Detroit 187" has also given a lot of people across the state a taste of what it's like to work in the movie and television industry. From production crews to scene extras, the show uses a lot of local talent, giving them a chance to experience what it's like to work in Hollywood.

"People are very happy that we're here doing a network TV show, that we are bringing jobs here and a boost to the economy. However, they really like the show," Imperioli said.

"There's a lot of jobs that are being offered. We are showing a side of Detroit that doesn't get to get shown. There's a lot Detroit has to offer," Martinez said.

The show also allows the country to see and experience what Detroit pride is really all about.

"We're everywhere. We are in the high and we are in the low. We are in the Masonic Temple. We're in the neighborhoods. We're in the good neighborhoods as well as the bad neighborhoods. It's all good, baby. It's all good," McDaniel said.

While most of the action-packed drama is shot right on the streets of Metro-Detroit, a former automotive facility in Highland Park fills in the gaps to tell the story. It's now a scene out of Hollywood, a fully functioning soundstage.

"It's a little bit like a circus. There are a lot of different people. Everyone has their specialties," said Brian Faul, an assistant director on the show.

Faul is one of almost 100 people putting in more than 12 hours a day to bring "Detroit 187" to life.

"We're preparing our second of three morgue scenes today," he said.

Stand-ins who resemble the lead actors from their height, weight and even their wardrobe, first rehearse the scene so camera operators can practice and set their shots.

Then what's known as the "First Team" steps onto the set. These are the actors you see every episode. The cameras roll and the magic begins.

Several takes from several different angles are done, meaning the actors and crew can spend hours reciting the same lines, shooting the same scene over and over. It's all to ensure everything is perfect.

Erin Cummings plays Medical Examiner Dr. Abbey Ward.

"There's always going to be something you are going to miss," she said.

"There's going to be an angle, or someone will say a line and it will have a different inflection that change the dynamic of the scene and make it more exciting. You want to capture those moments."

And "Detroit 187" is capturing the attention of thousands of Michiganders who dreamed of being in front of the camera. Every scene requires a handful of extras.

They are crucial to making every scene as real as possible. And it means someone without any acting experience can be a crime tech, medical assistant, or even a lifeless body.

"Generally our dead people are actually living people that we instruct to use a little Zen and concentrate and not exactly breath. So you can see them," Faul said.

The work shifts to what is known as the homicide unit of Detroit PD -- a set resembling a real-life police department. But all of this Hollywood make believe didn't come without its critics.

Initially, there were concerns about the city's image since Detroit 187 focused solely on the crime.

"The people here are proud. They are proud of their city," Imperioli said. "They know it's going through difficulties but there's a pride and there's a sense of that the worst is over."

The actors, who now call the area home, say they've gotten nothing but praise since the show hit the screen three months ago.

The high crime drama is set to continue entertaining audiences across the country.

"They could have chosen to shoot it in L.A. and found any kind of homicides that have happened in any kind of city," Imperioli said.

"But the fact that we are here and learning about the city, I think it's making it very unique that way and specific."


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