- March 13, 2018
After getting her hair coiffed and nails manicured at the local salon, Annie Glenn strolled through several boutiques along Plant Street, searching for the perfect dress. She found it — a powder-blue number — a few doors down from the hair salon.
It wasn’t the real Annie Glenn, the wife of astronaut John Glenn, but an actress playing the role in a National Geographic television series being produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, among others.
DiCaprio was not present for the filming in downtown Winter Garden, which took place for most of the day Tuesday, Sept. 17. But actress Nora Zehetner, whose TV credits include “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Mad Men,” was there for her portrayal of the astronaut’s wife.
“The Right Stuff” is based on author Tom Wolfe’s 1979 novel of the same name, and it explores the infancy of the U.S. space program and tells the stories of the first Project Mercury astronauts selected for the NASA program. Season one takes place at the height of the Cold War in 1958, when the Soviets are dominating the space race, according to the National Geographic website. In response, the U.S. government creates NASA’s Project Mercury and pulls together military adrenaline-junkie test pilots to create the Mercury Seven astronaut team.
National Geographic has partnered with Appian Way Productions and Warner Horizon Television to produce the series.
THE WINTER GARDEN STUFF
Winter Garden’s downtown sector has the authentic older buildings, which makes it a desirable location for filming scenes set decades ago.
“Winter Garden is one of the most filmed communities in all of Central Florida,” said Tanja Gerhartz, economic development director for the city of Winter Garden. “The last time (the Orlando Film Commission) gave me statistics, we were No. 2.”
Filming took place in the historic Edgewater Hotel, Earl Brigham’s Barber Shop and The Boutique on Plant. Victor Russell was used as a staging area for the actors and the sound technician.
On Monday, crews were busy setting up the scenes. The barber shop, located in the hotel, its manly interior saturated in brown tones, was redecorated in pink with feminine accents to turn it into a beauty salon. The modern clothing for sale in The Boutique was removed and in its place were Jackie O-style dresses and cases full of white gloves and silky scarves.
Boutique owner Dana Maddox said it was a great experience watching her shop transformed into a 1950s dress shop. She was present for the scenes being filmed, from Annie Glenn glancing in the window and stepping inside to her seeing the perfect dress on a mannequin.
“I can't say enough about the team who cleared my entire store and then restored everything back to its original place,” Maddox said.
Scarlett Lanza was equally as impressed with the temporary conversion of the barber shop she and her husband, Mike, own. Props brought in to feminize the business included pink and white styling chairs, a manicure table, salon accessories representative of 1959, flowers and light-colored curtains.
“We were thrilled to have the production crew, as well as the actors and actresses, there,” Scarlett Lanza said. “It was an honor. The crew was extremely professional, quick and accommodating to our other businesses on the ground floor that had to shut down temporarily for the filming. They were super quick to have the shop set up and then disassembled and placed back to the way they found it.
“It was really exciting to have this specific show filmed in our hotel and barber shop because, of course, having the old-fashioned barber shop and historic hotel, we love history,” Scarlett Lanza said. “This is a show my husband, Mike, and I would have chosen to watch on our own, and now it is even more compelling because we will recognize the sets in some of the scenes from the Edgewater and the barber shop.”
Mike Lanza, president of the Edgewater Hotel, said the hotel lobby was used as a staging area for the sound and prop departments and The Tasting Room was used as a holding room for talent and crew.
“The crew that came into the hotel was a very professional operation,” he said. “We just tried our best to support the production as much as we could. They did a great job with coordinating with our guests when they needed to enter and exit the building.”
“The Right Stuff” is scheduled to begin airing on the National Geographic channel in 2020.