Wilmington, N.C. — What would life be like if you were stuck under a giant transparent dome?
That's the premise of the new CBS drama "Under the Dome," which has residents of a small town trying to survive "post-apocalyptic conditions" while searching for the answers as to what the barrier is and if it will ever go away. It is based on the Stephen King novel and is being produced by Steven Spielberg.
Although set in Chester's Mill, Maine, the show and special effects are actually being produced at a massive warehouse inside EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, a 15,000-square-foot, 50-acre film and television production complex with 10 sound stages and two special effects water tanks.
The show officially premieres on CBS Monday night, but residents in Wilmington got a sneak peek Thursday night when the stars walked the red carpet and hosted a special screening of the first episode.
King arrived on the red carpet wearing a plain black T-shirt and jeans, a sartorial match to his description of North Carolina as "comfortable."
"I've worked on film in North Carolina before. It's very comfortable for me," he said. "I love it in terms of the facility, the infrastructure, and I like the climate...and the people are terrific."
Actor Colin Ford, who plays the role of a teen named Joe in the mini-series, said working with King unleashed creativity.
"It was such an incredible experience," he said. "Magic was made."
The actors have taken up temporary residence in Wilmington since March and will continue filming through the end of July. The only "Under the Dome" main actor with a North Carolina connection is Britt Robertson, a Charlotte native who plays Angie, a feisty waitress at the local diner.
Rachelle LeFevre, who is best known for her villain vampire role of Victoria in the first two installments of “The Twilight Saga,” plays reporter Julia Shumway.
“The dome comes down and, immediately, her first thing is, the journalist kicks in. Where did it come from? What is it made of? How long is it going to be here? Who’s responsible?” LeFevre said. “What’s really interesting is the contrast between her reaction and everyone else’s. Everyone else seems to be very emotional about it, ‘Oh my God … is this an act of God? What does it all mean?’ And she isn’t looking for meaning, she’s looking for answers.”
LeFevre says she hopes viewers will identify with the characters and ask themselves, “Who would I be? What would I do in that situation?”
Ford's character is Joe, a teen separated from his parents, who are outside the dome. The experience forces Joe to grow up quickly, Ford said.
"Before that, he's just been a really simple kid who just did what he was told and was a good boy," he said. "Now, he has to make decisions about what's best for him, what's best for his peers and his family."
King said he wrote the book because he wanted to explore how people would behave when forced into a closed environment.
"In a way, we're all under the dome," he said. "We all have so many resources."