After four seasons, HBO’s “Eastbound and Down” has come to a close.
The series, set in Shelby, North Carolina, called Wilmington and Myrtle Beach home for three of its four seasons and, for the most part, its residents couldn’t have been happier.
“Growing up in Wilmington, I've seen first hand this area morph into a premier destination for T.V. and film production,” Eugene Ashley High School principal Jackson Norvell said. “Like most Wilmingtonians, I take pride in our ‘Hollywood East’ culture.”
“The experience was certainly positive. The season showcased our stadium to a national audience. It added additional exposure to some of our corporate sponsors and it help with merchandise sales in our pro shop,” Jen Borowski, promotions and marketing director for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans said. “It certainly gave us exposure we would not be able to get otherwise. As I mentioned, we did set up a section of our Pro Shop dedicated to [the show], where we sold everything from t-shirts to glassware and even Kenny Powers wigs.”
During the show’s third season, the Pelicans home, TicketReturn.com Stadium, was transformed to play home to the fictitious Myrtle Beach Mermen. Norvell’s school, Ashley High, played host to the show’s fictitious Jefferson Davis Middle School during season one.
“While I was not the principal of Ashley in those days, I am still able to reap the rewards of Ashley being known throughout the region as the school with the most thriving arts programming,” Norvell continued. “I can't help but attribute our reputation for excellence in the arts and creativity in our student body in part to the connection Ashley had and will always have with the production of ‘Eastbound and Down’.”
And, as one would expect, seeing their place of employment on television was quite the thrill.
“A bunch of our staff members would get together every week to watch the show and it was something that we looked forward. Seeing the stadium on the series always gave me chills,” Borowski added. “Working in the office when they were filming we had an idea of some of the stuff that was going to happen, but it was awesome to see how it was all put together in the end. However, the coolest thing was seeing famous actors, such as Danny McBride and Matthew McConaughey, working in the same place we work every day.”
McBride, of course, plays the show’s main character, the boisterous former Major League Kenny Powers. McConaughey showed up in three episodes as baseball scout Roy McDaniel.
“I don't think that any of the ladies in our office got any work done the day that McConaughey was around,” Borowski said. “In fact our General Manager had to come find us in the outfield to tell us to get back to work.”
However, it was when comedian Will Ferrell, who guest starred as the arrogant car dealership owner Ashley Schaefer, showed up when things got interesting.
“No one really knew that [Will Ferrell] was going to be there. I was sitting in my office which has big windows that look out into the parking lot. I looked up and Will Ferrell was standing at my window on a phone call. I think I fell out of my chair I was so surprised,” Borowski recalled. “That was also the same day that one of our staff members cars got stuck at the stadium. His car had been filmed in the parking lot during a shot earlier in the day and when he went to leave after work they told him he could not move his car because they were really filming parts of the scene later that night and need to keep the same background. Overall it was a fun experience and it was certainly something that I won't forget any time soon.”
While the names of some of the locations have been changed to suit the show, producers did keep some of the landscape the same. For example, in this final season, Jellybeans Family Skate Center in Wilmington actually was mentioned by rocker Marilyn Manson during his cameo as a rollerskating waiter. Just down the road from Jellybeans, Schaefer BMW was the shooting location for Ashley Schaefer Imports.
Is it just the locations or have some of the area’s own colorful characters found their way onto the show?
“I have to confess I’ve never watched the show,” O. Stanhope Anthony III, mayor of Shelby said. “I have been told that one of the characters in the show who plays an obnoxious car salesman is based on a local auto dealership owner who has an equally obnoxious personality.”