It was a humid July night just past dusk, the dripping air teeming with the buzz of cicadas while sidewalk cracks birthed scuttling palmetto bugs forced to dodge the sneakers of film crew members.
Original Netflix series "Outer Banks" was being filmed a few blocks away from Fuel in downtown Charleston, almost a year ago. One of many Lowcountry locations used for the show was a historic house that peeked out from behind a tangled garden.
The creaky house was filled to the brim with dusty knickknacks — cracked vases on high shelves, vintage gaslight fixtures along the stairwell and stacks of books in every room. A painting of a guinea pig hung on the kitchen wall above a bowl of lemons. A stained-glass window on the second floor glowed eerily in the twilight.
Actresses Madison Bailey and Madelyn Cline, both originally from the Carolinas, were filming a spooky scene that made it into Episode 6 of the show set to premiere April 15.
At a house nearby, director's chairs were set up in the living room, and a few of the young stars of "Outer Banks" wandered in to talk about the show for which they traversed from Los Angeles to Charleston to film. A lot of them compared filming in Charleston to a summer vacation.
"Outer Banks" was created by Executive Producer Jonas Pate ("Friday Night Lights"), his brother Josh Pate and Shannon Burke. The story is inspired by coming-of-age adventure tales like "The Goonies" and "The Outsiders." It revolves around a group of friends, coastal island dwellers, who set out on a treasure hunt. There's drama between cliques ("The Kooks" and "The Pogues") and a dangerous quest to find out what happened to one character's father that leads to a search for gold.
Boating, diving, paddleboarding and surfing are among the activities the actors had to learn for the water-centric show.
Pate, who grew up near the Outer Banks, leaned on his childhood memories to inform the landscape of the show. Ironically, it was not actually filmed in the Outer Banks, in part because of the controversial anti-transgender North Carolina bathroom bill. When the show moved to Charleston, Pate says it was easy to adapt, with plenty of comparable coastlines, beach towns and lighthouses.
The filming of "Outer Banks," which overlapped with the filming of "The Righteous Gemstones," took place last year, April to October. Pate said around 200 Charleston businesses were used in some way, from boat rentals to catering companies.
Among Lowcountry locations that make the big screen are Shem Creek and the Old Village in Mount Pleasant, parts of James Island and Johns Island, McClellanville, Kiawah Island, Charleston Harbor and the Morris Island Lighthouse. The film crew, consisting of mostly Wilmington- and Charleston-based people, also traveled to Beaufort and shot night beach scenes at Hunting Island, careful to obey rules about nesting sea turtles.
Pate describes the show as "a little bit Goonies, but the kids are older and there's more drama."
"It’s just a weird teenage fantasy, I guess, to be let in on a mystery that you can go on with your friends," Pate said. "It's a time-honored genre that goes back to Robert Louis Stevenson."
There's lead character Chase Stokes (John B.) with freckled cheeks and a shaggy brunette mop. Before being cast for "Outer Banks," Stokes was privy to a coastal lifestyle. He grew up surfing and already had his boater's license.
"It's been kind of fun doing that 16-year-old Chase thing again," said Stokes.
Stokes said Pate was the dream creator to work with because of his passion, willingness to work with actors and hands-on direction. He also welcomed feedback, Stokes added.
"He's just got such a knack for being an actor's director, which is kind of every actor's dream," Stokes said. "You know, to have somebody who understands the development of the story mixed with the performance base, which is so important to get, especially in these young adult series."
He said Pate really wanted the story to come to life in a way that Stokes has never experienced with any other show.
John B.'s love interest in "Outer Banks" is Sarah Cameron, a feisty and confident upper-class "Kook" drawn to down-to-earth John B. and his blue-collar "Pogue" lifestyle. She's played by Madelyn Cline, who grew up in Goose Creek.
Cline has moved to Los Angeles, but said she has fallen in love with her hometown all over again because of "Outer Banks." She describes her character's love story as one for the ages.
"It's that wild love story that you always kind of dream about," Cline said. "It's dangerous and it's cute, but also sexy, and it's super fun."
One of the "Pogues" of the show is Pope, played by Johnathan Daviss. Pope, a Merit Scholarship finalist, is the voice of reason in the adventurous group, but he's also willing to take risks to help out his friends.
"The way we act on the screen is literally how we act in real life," Daviss said. "I honestly could not see myself not hanging out with these people after shooting."
Madison Bailey, who plays fellow "Pogue" Kiara, feels the same way.
"I clicked with everyone immediately," Bailey shared. "I feel like none of our friendships took any effort whatsoever."
That made the on-screen chemistry seem all the more genuine. It's real, she said.
Bailey said it was helpful growing up in North Carolina because of some real Southern social nuances that matched the script and informed her role.
"Though the words aren’t “Kooks” and “Pogues,” I knew exactly who those groups were," Bailey said, referring to the class distinctions. "It was so obvious."
Going on a treasure hunt also took her back to her childhood, when fantastical adventures abounded.
"You lose that a little as you grow up, so it's been fun to go back to that," Bailey said.