Mayflower: A TV series films in Milly

Morgan Simpson | A&L Editor | Oct. 9, 2019

Stephanie Kurtzuba and David Triacca perform an intense scene together during the production of Mayflower
Photo Courtesy of Summer Mckelvey

Over the last weekend of Sept. 27-29, a television series called “Mayflower” was filmed in Milledgeville. Written by Milledgeville native, Chris Danuser, the script  won awards in 2017 for Best Screenplay at the Milledgeville-Eatonton Film Festival and the SOMA Film Festival in the New York Metro Area. 

The crew filmed the pilot for the series in downtown Athens and Milledgeville along with a store off of the Sparta highway.

The series showcases actress Stephanie Kurtzuba, who plays alongside Robert De Niro as his wife in the upcoming movie “The Irishman.” 

The series explores the dark emotions of humanity, anguish and misery through the main character Pap. 

Already a widower, Pap receives the remains of his son from Afghanistan. Completely devastated from the losses and searching for retaliation for his son’s death, he decides to truck-bomb a mosque. However, he discovers his granddaughter in the truck and must make a life-altering decision. 

The message from the Mayflower series is dark, however, it expresses the topics in the news in recent years, from race to religion. The news gave Danuser the start of his story.

One major topic in the film is post-traumatic stress disorder. 

“Everyone is living through some kind of PTSD,” said Danuser. 

Even though the film displays extreme forms of PTSD, Danuser believes everyone can connect to that in some way. It sheds light on the people that have this disorder along with those surrounding them. Danuser shows this through Pap and his relationship with Ricky, his granddaughter. 

Danuser decided to film in Middle Georgia because of his connection to the area. After moving from Milledgeville, Danuser realized Milledgeville’s cinematic potential .

“I started realizing what a gold mine Milledgeville is,” Danuser said.

The crew filmed the pilot for the series in downtown Athens and Milledgeville along with a store off of the Sparta highway.

The scene filmed at the Kuntry Store shows the everyday life of Pap and the relationship between him and Ricky. The pilot episode filmed could stand alone, but it leads to questions that will be answered in the rest of the series. 

The producer, Jeremiah Bennett, said the Mayflower series must first be picked up by either a streaming site like Netflix or a network. In the meantime, the series will be shown at film festivals around the world as a short piece. 

Actor David Triacca plays the main character, Pap, a villain the audience will love to hate. Triacca explained Pap was a different character than he was used to portraying. 

“I really don’t recognize myself in this character, which is very strange,”Triacca said. 

Coming from an extensive acting background, that says a lot. Triacca said he has been working with this character for a while.

“Oh they are going to love me [Pap],” Triacca said.

Kurtzuba plays Tammy, Ricky’s estranged aunt. Pap looks to Tammy for help raising Ricky, which brings her back into the picture. 

Even though Kurtzuba cannot directly connect to the situation her character is going through, she tries to latch on to the real human emotions her character displays.

“I can relate to the feelings around family and obligation,” Kurtzuba said. “I think we all understand the complexities of family relationships.”

Kurtzuba says Tammy is a new character for her in terms of her life situation. To approach her character, she tries to stay non-judgemental in order to take on the role and instead attempts to connect to the emotions.

Both actors commented on their first time in Georgia and the Southern hospitality they encountered in the few short days here.

“That Southern hospitality, that’s not just a cliche,” Triacca said. He visited downtown Milledgeville to walk around and said everyone was friendly.

Kurtzuba did not have much time between sets, the airport and her hotel but she raved about the crew in Milledgeville.

“What an incredibly professional and just genuinely nice group of people so if that is a reflection of Georgia, I’m all in,” Kurtzuba said.

The heat was another thing that came up when talking about their time in Georgia. Co-director, Casey Clark, who is based in New York City, was not prepared for the high temperatures of the Middle Georgia region. Though Clark said the heat helped add to what the film was getting at.

The team hopes the topics covered in the series will change the view of the audience. Triacca believes the series reaches everyone, so the audience will be able to connect to it in some way.

“Some people don’t fit in a psychological checklist of what a do- mestic terrorist would be,” Danuser said. “Maybe you shouldn’t be one to judge as much.”

He hopes this will shed light on the psychological process of someone willing to commit mass murder due to the loss he experienced. Clark thinks the audience will have mixed emotions over the series, with some feeling uncomfortable and others seeing the value in it.

“I think what will be unavoidable is that it is powerful and people will have a reaction,” Clark said.

The crew gave advice and tips for college students in their important years before the real world.

Kurtzuba advises students to be true to themselves no matter what. She believes it goes a long way being real rather than fake and worrying about being the next big thing.

“Find your truth and find your path,” Kurtzuba said.

Bennett advises students to work on projects while in college and not wait until after graduation.

“Go ahead and do the projects now and be willing to take the weekend and shoot that short or enter into the 48-hour filming contest,” Bennett said.

Danuser also agreed that experience in college is important.

“Learn yourself and how you deal with trauma and the choices that you make after you experience trauma,” Danuser said.

During the scenes and the performances from the actors, Clark was already moved while filming the pilot episode.

“I was crying when I was just watching it from the monitor, and that’s when I knew okay we got it,” Clark said.

The episode will be edited for the next couple of months, with hopes of a network or streaming service picking it up for the premiere season at the beginning of 2020.