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In a few weeks, West Oakland residents will begin seeing a film production crew working around their neighborhoods. They’ll be filming “Blindspotting,” a TV series that will debut on Starz. The show is a spinoff of the acclaimed 2018 film of the same name.
The show’s plot will center around the character Ashley (played by Jasmine Cephas Jones) as she navigates life in Oakland after her partner Miles (played by Rafael Casal) is suddenly incarcerated. This forces Ashley and their son Sean to move in with Miles’ mother (played by Helen Hunt).
Oaklanders Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal and Brooklynite Jones are the producers of the series, and Diggs and Casal wrote the eight episodes. Additional writers on the show include (Oaklander) Nijla Mu’min, Alanna Brown, (Antioch native) Benjamin Earl Turner, and (Colombian) Priscila Garcia-Jacquier.
During a Zoom “meet and greet” on Thursday, Heather MacLean, the location manager for the show, led a conversation with West Oakland residents and told locals about what to expect when the Los Angeles film crew arrives toward the end of February. According to MacLean, the filming dates are subject to change based on the county and the city’s number of COVID-19 cases.
Some of the locations they plan to film at include 7th Street and Peralta, 14th Street and Peralta, 16th Street and Peralta, the Port of Oakland, Frank Ogawa Plaza, and Joaquin Miller Park.
The production team will implement various safety measures to protect the crew and West Oaklanders from COVID-19, said MacLean. She estimated there will be a staff of between 75-85 crew members plus actors and extras.
Before arriving in Oakland, crew members will need to be tested twice for COVID-19 to ensure they’re not bringing the virus to a part of Oakland that has been hard hit by the pandemic. Once filming begins, crew members will be tested five days a week.
All the actors will be regularly tested, as will extras. The crew and cast will follow physical distancing protocols. To ensure the safety of residents when actors are filming without masks, “we will block off any pedestrian access, so there isn’t any cross-contamination,” MacLean said during the Zoom call. So if you find yourself along Peralta Street, in Frank Ogawa Plaza or Joaquin Miller Park in late February, be prepared for a little detour.
MacLean said filming in Oakland means the show will create temporary jobs for residents. She said producers are focused on hiring West Oakland residents first before opening up job opportunities to others (see the resource box for potential job opportunities with the show.)
Filming in Oakland will also bring a small infusion of much-needed revenue to the city. The film crew is expected to spend “tens of thousands locally” on permits, location rentals, and vendors, said MacLean.
“Blindspotting” producers said they’ll continue the conversation with West Oakland residents as the filming dates near. If you live in West Oakland, expect to see a leaflet with information on how to join the next Zoom meeting.
The “Blindspotting” team is currently looking to hire the following:
- Ride-sharing drivers
- Owners of “cool” cars (could be a regular car, lowrider, or rare models)
- Food caterers
If you are a resident of West Oakland, please email your info to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “Blindspotting” and the temporary job that you are interested in
If you are interested in applying to be a background extra you can register at ninahenningercasting.com
Update: we have updated the story to reflect all of the names who are part of the writer’s room on the show which include writers from the Bay Area and some who are women of color.