PBS ordered a second season of its locally filmed historical drama “Mercy Street” Wednesday with production scheduled to resume in Richmond and Petersburg next month.
Set in Alexandria in spring 1862, the six-episode first season of “Mercy Street” followed the staff of a Union military hospital in the Union-occupied Confederate city. Mansion House Hospital was formerly a luxury hotel owned by Alexandria’s Green family.
Season two, which will film from approximately April 18 to June 28, will pick up immediately following the events at the end of the first-season finale as the series continues to explore the interpersonal dynamics of the Mansion House staff, the increasingly fraught position of the Green family and the challenges facing Alexandria’s burgeoning black population. Season two will follow the intensifying Civil War, from the Seven Days’ Battle to beyond Antietam, while also visiting the halls of Confederate power.
“In season two, we are expanding the scope of the series somewhat,” said series co-creator and executive producer Lisa Q. Wolfinger, who already is at work in the show’s reopened production office in downtown Richmond. “We will be in some new locations in and around Richmond and Petersburg.”
Producers are scouting plantation locations — “Mercy Street” may visit the family plantation of Dr. Jedediah Foster (played by Josh Radnor) — and one character will visit Richmond, allowing the city to play itself for the first time in the series.
“We take our characters closer to the fight,” Wolfinger said of the show’s Civil War backdrop. “We’ll get a taste of the war in season two.”
The show’s primary locations will continue to be Centre Hill Mansion in Petersburg, playing the Green home, and Laburnum House in Ginter Park, playing the interior of Mansion House Hospital.
Laburnum House was purchased by the Veritas School, but Wolfinger said the school will allow the production to continue using the building.
“They have been incredibly supportive and have allowed us to use that location for as many seasons as we have, and they’ll work around us,” Wolfinger said. “I think they’re just very excited we’re bringing so much attention to the building.”
The first-season cast, including Radnor, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Gary Cole and Virginia native Hannah James, is expected to return with the exception of actress Shalita Grant, who played hospital laundress Aurelia Johnson, an escaped slave. Grant is a series regular on CBS’s “NCIS: New Orleans.”
“There’s a strong reason why Aurelia doesn’t come back in season two,” Wolfinger said. “At the end of season one, she’s about to get on a steamboat headed for Boston, and I can’t say too much, but there is a reason for her not to reappear in season two. But we will be introduced to some new African-American characters.”
“Mercy Street” debuted on PBS stations nationally Jan. 17, drawing 3.3 million viewers in same-day overnight ratings. When after-the-fact viewing via on-demand, DVR and nonlinear platforms is factored in, more than 5.7 million viewers watched the premiere episode. Through Feb. 28, the show’s six episodes were streamed 2 million times across multiple digital platforms.
Historian James M. “Jim” McPherson, an adviser on the show’s first season, will return to offer producers guidance in historical accuracy for season two along with a raft of other advisers.
“It has been a privilege for all of us on ‘Mercy Street’ to be able to tell these stories at the intersection of drama and history, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to build on what we’ve already done,” said co-creator and executive producer David Zabel in a PBS news release.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he was pleased to see “Mercy Street” return.
“This outstanding show is a great illustration of the enormous opportunities Virginia offers to film and television producers and to tourists who enjoy history and natural beauty,” McAuliffe said in a prepared statement.