HBO wants to film in a Minneapolis Cedar-Riverside apartment building for its upcoming drama about Somali-Americans.
And the cable channel is one step closer to getting the thumbs up, despite some concerns from neighborhood residents.
The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority said at Wednesday's meeting, the board unanimously approved production of "Mogadishu, Minnesota" to take place at Cedar High Apartments. Though with conditions.
The building's resident council has to approve it as well, but the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority is still determining when the council will meet next, spokesperson Jeff Horwich said. And the filming fees HBO pays need to somehow be used to benefit residents of the apartment complex. The building is 10 stories and includes 116 apartment units.
It's situated in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood – MN Compass says about 45 percent of the residents in the neighborhood are foreign-born, and more than half speak a language other than English. It comprises one of the largest Somali populations in the entire country.
So there's been some concern from the community that a show about terrorism recruitment might not show Somali-Americans in the best light.
One of the project's producers and writers is rapper K'naan Warsame. He performed in Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in September, and residents upset with the show started a protest at the site. MPR News has details here. And a spokesperson at the board's meeting Wednesday reiterated concerns to the officials.
Ensuring the residents benefit
One goal of the housing authority, Horwich said, is to make sure the people who are most inconvenienced by any filming would benefit in some way. And that can be done through the fees that HBO would pay to use the site. The details though still need to be worked out, because the resolution that was approved was fairly general.
"The Intention of it was to say, that if residents are going to be inconvenienced by this – which they certainly are – then residents should benefit from the location fees that HBO pays, in order to use the location," Horwich said.
There's another aspect too: The jobs and spending in the area for crews that come to work for a time.
We've reached out to HBO for more details, but the Star Tribune has some info on when, and for how long, the filming might be.
The series is being produced by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow.
According to Deadline, HBO just announced recent casting, including Elvis Nolasco, K.C. Collins, Rif Hutton, Ezana Alem, Hanad Abdirahman Abdi, Selam Tadese, Prince Abdi, Yusra Warsama and Liya Kebede. All of them would be regular characters if the show gets picked up beyond the pilot episode.
Variety has character descriptions for them, including Alem as a "Somali all-American boy, who is described as a handsome, excellent student who is planning to go away to college with his beautiful girlfriend, Lacy"; and Nolasco as the owner of a Hookah bar and an "upright citizen."
The story was initially described as a "family drama" that will focus on “the highly impenetrable world of jihadi recruitment,", HBO told the Hollywood Reporter in June. But current descriptions say it'll be about what it means to be an American for Somalis in Minneapolis.