HBO crime drama shows off St. Charles, local actors

As the new HBO series “True Detective” enters its third week, those who live in St. Charles Parish will notice familiar sights, and faces, from around the parish being showcased in each episode.

The series has featured several locations in St. Charles Parish so far, including the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Norco, the lush landscape of  Bayou Gauche and homes situated along the bayou in Des Allemands. Two bars owned by parish natives have also been used as backdrops on the popular show, and a pair of locals worked on the series as extras.

A journeyman actor from Luling  plays a detective in the series, while an elementary student from Destrehan is the body double for one of thea main character’s daughters. Luling native Timothy Wyant graduated from Hahnville High School in 1987 and has been involved in nearly 350 film and TV productions in the New Orleans area.

Wyant appears in five episodes of “True Detective” with a speaking role as a detective in the same Louisiana State Police office where the main characters, played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, work.

“They called me and fitted me for a reoccurring role as a featured detective. I was told I would be working with some of Hollywood’s greatest like Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. It was great. These two actors really bring the film to life,” Wyant said. “We filmed all over south Louisiana in cotton lands and swamps.”

Despite his increasing work in the film industry, which includes minor parts in “Grudge Match,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” Wyant maintains two full-time jobs. He works at the seafood counter at a Rouse’s Supermarket and as a firearms salesman at Academy Sports & Outdoors.

Wyant said his employers are flexible when it comes to film projects.

“They allow me the time off to pursue my acting dreams,” he said.  

Another St. Charles Parish resident, 9-year-old Kyleigh McGovern, was able to grab a role as the body double for Harrelson’s on-screen daughter.

McGovern, a fourth grade student at Ethel Schoeffner Elementary School and daughter to Brandy and Chris McGovern of Destrehan, had never acted before she landed the part. Kyleigh’s mother said they were surprised when she was selected.

“My cousin was looking at different castings and what they were looking for. This popped up and we sent pictures of Kyleigh. It was Kyleigh’s first time and she made it,” McGovern said. “I was very surprised. It wasn’t something we thought would ever come about, but now it has.”

As a body double, Kyleigh is in scenes where the family of Harrelson’s character are together, but is only included in shots where her face is obscured. The necessity of a body double is due to laws regarding screen time by child actors. “They would split them up between certain scenes,” McGovern said. “When they needed the back of (Harrelson’s daughter) they would use Kyleigh.”

Kyleigh’s part of the project was filmed over a three-week period early last year during which time she took a break from her studies. However, she received tutoring on-site.Now that she has experienced some success, Kyleigh has joined talented drama and is currently looking for other roles.

“I hope more comes her way,” McGovern said. “We are looking for casting for things and we are looking for stuff in New Orleans.”

Other St. Charles Parish natives had scenes shot on their property, including Fisherman’s Wharf in Bayou Gauche, owned by Joel DeJean, and TCupps’ Bar in Bridge City, owned by Tessa Cupp.

DeJean’s bar and personal property on Bayou Gauche Island has been the scene of numerous productions over the years. The bar will be featured in at least one future episode.

However, regulars to the bar may have noticed a drastic difference to the interior. Because part of the TV series is set in 1995, the film crew changed out furniture inside to match the time period and changed the bar’s name from Fisherman’s Wharf to Doumain’s Domain.

“Instead of the bar stools they have right now, they put old stuff in to make it look rickety rackety,” DeJean said.

DeJean was able to meet Harrelson during the three-day shoot and even showed him around the area a little bit.

“Woody was real nice and struck up a conversation with me. Before you know it we were walking back to my house,” he said.

DeJean said he showed Harrelson and McConaughey’s son the bayou surrounding his home, pointing out alligators swimming by. Despite that attention, it takes a lot for DeJean to get star struck.

Only a few years ago, a pivotal scene in the comic book fantasy movie “Jonah Hex” was filmed in that same bayou. During the filming, star Josh Brolin was a regular customer at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Outside of allowing his property to be used for numerous film and TV productions, DeJean has also appeared in a film shot on the island.

“They shot one movie out here where there was an airboat chase. The stunt drivers got out there and they didn’t know the first thing about operating an airboat, so me and my cousin got to drive the airboats during the scene,” he said.  DeJean said because of contacts he has with TV and movie location scouts, Fisherman’s Wharf will undoubtedly be used in another film.

Closer to New Orleans, the Bridge City bar TCupps’ was featured in the first episode of the series. Luling native Tessa Cupp, a 1986 graduate of Hahnville High School, has owned the 50-year-old bar for the past three years and said this was her first experience with a film crew. She became involved with the production after a location scout surprised her by showing up at the bar one day.

“They came in looking at different bars. They set the time scale in 1987 and the flooring (at TCupps’) was old flooring and the bar scene was what they wanted,” she said. “The producers came in and changed a few things. Anything over 1985 and above they took it out, but all of the rest of the stuff stayed in the bar.”

However, they did not change the bar’s name.

“It was very exciting seeing my name up everywhere and my bar and everything,” she said.

The shooting took place over a period of three days and Cupp was present to experience the entire thing.

“It was just very intriguing to see how they did the scenes. They spoke only a few words at a time and then set up and did it again,” she said.

Cupp was also able to meet McConaughey as well as other actors involved in the production and take pictures with them. She is currently working on getting HBO up and running at the bar so they can hold viewing parties.

“They have been talking about coming back and using the bar as a location again,” she said.

“True Detective” airs on Sunday nights on HBO at 8 p.m. The first season consists of eight episodes.


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