Somehow, the train survived 9/11.
Car 143 of the PATH system between New Jersey and New York City dodged falling debris, flooding and fire that day, and now it’s frozen in time. Posters from the early 2000s still cover its walls. Despite water damage, some of the car’s lights are still functional, creating dimness, uneven shade. The car’s eerie history and its dented, rusty exterior made it an ideal place as a filming location for the new sci-fi thriller “The Hunter’s Anthology.”
The show, which premiered on Amazon Prime on Feb. 12, is written and directed by Robert Smithline and stars Winston-Salem native and UNCG graduate Taylor August as Mac, a mysterious demon hunter who traps six unsuspecting passengers on a train, convinced one of them is evil. For five episodes, Mac peers into each passenger’s soul, hoping to spot and slay the evil presence.
“His purpose is to drive out the evil in the world and eliminate it,” August says about his character. “And he will do it at all costs.”
The series was inspired by multiple television shows, including “The Twilight Zone” and “Lost.” August believes the series does a great job at character development, something he says he doesn’t see too often in other shows.
“This series really dives deep into the backstories of characters involved,” he says.
Filming began in summer 2018; August joined the project just three months prior, when the original actor realized he was double-booked.
Although he related somewhat to Mac’s cryptic, reclusive nature, August says he had to really take time to get into character.
“To this day, I’m trying to figure that out,” he says.
August aims to play characters that make him think, That’s me! or relate to someone he knows. He approached Mac, a misunderstood individual judged for his appearance, as if he experienced that himself.
The project was filmed in multiple places around New York state, including the Trolley Museum in Kingston where car 143 is located. With the haunting spirit of 9/11 looming in the air, the tone was set for filming the scenes. Knowing that the people who once rode this train either narrowly escaped death or faced it was a feeling the actors couldn’t shake.
“You feel like you’re in that moment,” August says. “There was a heaviness in the air.”
That day became the most memorable filming day but for different reasons.
For starters, the air conditioning went out.
“It’s like you’re in a tin can in the middle of August,” August says.
Sara Mari Lopez, who was dressed in a hoodie for her role of Jennifer, says the crew purchased water fans so the actors could mist themselves.
Kristy Cloetingh, who plays Madison in the series, believes August was the hottest of the cast due to his wardrobe: a trench coat, jeans and cowboy boots.
“He was gesturing with his hands, and because he had so much sweat on his body, he was just flicking droplets of sweat throughout the subway car,” Cloetingh says.
It didn’t stop there. A hornet’s nest had to be smoked out of the car, taking one day away from the filming process. This left the cast and crew on a time crunch.
“When you look at the subway scenes,” August says. “All those had to be shot in one or two takes.”
August is originally from Orlando, and his love for acting and writing started as a child with his vast VHS collection of Mickey Mouse cartoons. Michael J. Fox, known for his role as curious teen Marty McFly in the Back to the Future film trilogy, was a huge inspiration for the budding actor.
“I wore that tape out,” August says while laughing. “He’s one of the reasons I wanted to become an actor.”
Around 2005, August enrolled at the William Esper Studio in NYC, a studio from which notable talents Tracee Ellis Ross, Ian Somerhalder and Amy Schumer emerged. He spent two years studying the Meisner technique which encourages the actor to respond directly to their environment instead of thinking of their next move, resulting in more authentic acting. He implemented this by feeding off the disturbing energy of the train and his castmates’ fear of being outed as the demon to become Mac.
August acts because he wants people to relate to the characters he plays, he says.
“The connection to the audience is the number one driver for me,” he says. “Giving people something to be entertained by.”
Visit “The Hunter’s Anthology” website to view exclusive content, to watch trailers and to meet the cast. Watch the series on Amazon Prime.