We almost missed our chance. My wife, Caroline, and I had several trips planned to Austin from our home in Houston over successive weekends this summer and fall. After finding out the new Leftovers season was being shot in Texas, we knew we had to find the location and snoop around. A glimpse of that so-weird-it-looks-like-a-special-effect courthouse that figures so prominently in the trailers and a little Google-fu later, we had located “Jarden”: We needed to go to Lockhart, Texas. This is the story of that trip.
Timing though, is everything. Our original plan had us in Lockhart after the Season 2 red carpet premiere we would be attending on Oct. 3. We thought we could just hobnob with the celebrities on Saturday and then catch them all in the act of shooting there series the next day. Intuition intervened and saved us from making that mistake, as we decided to visit Lockhart the weekend before the premiere, as well as after the premiere, just to see what we could see. On our first we visit, we found a bustling city, alive with frenetic pace of an active Hollywood shoot getting its work done. On our second visit—the premiere weekend—it was like the entire production company had…wait for it...departed.
Upon our arrival to Lockhart, we set to work trying to find any hint of production. It did not take long. Signs like this one directed the cast, crew, and extras all over town. The trailers for the talent were all located in a parking lot just off the main square.
We parked at the main square and got out to take some pictures around the courthouse. There are several shots in the trailer that show the courthouse, the square and a man up in a tower built on one corner of the town square. It was hard to believe such a courthouse exists in central Texas, but it’s there for all to see.
Although the vendor tables were no longer in place, there was still evidence of the tower behind the traffic barriers in the foreground of my picture. When I walked right up to it, I found this marker:
After taking pictures of the courthouse from all angles, we were excited to see what else we might find. When we headed to where we thought the Murphy and Garvey residences were, we weren’t 100 percent sure we were in the right place until we saw a yellow, tell-tale sign. You can still get a pretty good idea of how things looked from these pictures taken just outside the back fence. The Christmas lights were still strung across the backyard as they were during John Murphy’s birthday party. The class Chevrolet pickup truck, visible in the background of the birthday scene, is seen here parked in the car port.
The Murphy’s pristinely preserved, elegant homestead sits majestically on a corner lot next to the home the Garveys move into. I don’t have the background to be able to look at the supports and braces surrounding the Garvey’s home to know if they are real or movie magic, but many homes in the area were visibly undergoing remediation for cracked foundations, so I would bet that the appearance of the house reflects its actual condition.
After checking out the Murphy and Garvey homes, we set out on foot in the surrounding area. We were quickly rewarded when we came across the home the yard-care obsessed bride from the trailer is dutifully watering the lawn in front of. The house also had one of these markers in front of it. You can see that a “3” has been erased, but the rest of the marker was left behind. The owner of the “bride house” drove up while we were photographing it and was curious about what we were up to. The lightning-fast wits of my wife were up to the task as she informed the owner that she simply loved her deck furniture and had asked me to get a picture of it.
We went back to the square determined to find out more by talking to the locals. After an aborted attempt to wring information out of the local barber, we decided to start checking out other stores along the square. We struck Leftovers fan gold: The Miracle Gift Shop.
This gift shop has not been explicitly shown in an episode or trailer yet, but this was obviously built by HBO as part of the show. For one thing, we were there during operating hours and it was not open. Another clue was when we stopped into the pharmacy next door to see if they sold “Miracle” t-shirts. They laughed and said, “You mean like that fake gift shop they built? No, we don’t.” We were a little surprised about the pharmacy employee’s disinterest in the show, but we still found a Christmas present in their store to purchase before we moved on.
The last location we were able to get pictures of, Matt’s church, actually required a return trip due to production still being in progress there. Although we were unable to see any familiar faces, just being close to the action and energy of The Leftovers being shot was a very electric kind of feeling. We came to it by engaging another local, this time at the local library. He also admitted to having no interest in the production, but was willing to help us figure out the location of the church. Once we described the wood-paneled funnel shape of the church’s steeple visible in the trailers, he knew exactly where to point us. We were there 10 minutes later, but weren’t quite brave enough to start flashing our cameras in full view of security and local police. As it was getting darker and our stomachs were requiring attention, we recovered our vehicle and made one oh-so-subtle pass back by the production where I was able to capture some terrible “spy photos” of the action. The quality of these photos required we go through with the originally planned trip to Lockhart the following weekend. Although we were unable to get inside, this is undeniably the church where Matt is a guest pastor.
It was eerie being at this location with only one week passed. On our first visit, there were hundreds of people busily completing their tasks, but on our second visit, the only evidence they were ever there was a sheet of paper on the small pile of trash outside the church with the words “The Leftovers” on it. We are so glad that we made the trip a week earlier than planned.
The Lockhart residents we spoke to were often uninterested in the production. Being enamored with The Leftovers and impressed by everything Hollywood, we couldn’t understand their positions until we studied Lockhart’s history a little closer.
It turns out, going back to 1972, Lockhart has not gone a span of greater than five years without some kind of Hollywood production being set up in town. Notables include What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Faculty, Where the Heart Is, Lone Star State of Mind, Temple Grandin (an HBO Film, in fact!) and the most recent Transformers movie. Needless to say, movie production to the citizens of Lockhart has become old hat.
Those two weekends, the first trip to see the production of The Leftovers and the return trip to Lockhart following the Season 2 premiere were the highpoints so far in my career as a Leftovers fan, blogger and podcaster. I’ll have to start thinking now on how to step up my game to deliver more behind the scenes action, if the production comes back to Texas next year.