It was a rare sight for Fresno High: dozens of actors and local extras, a canopy for a makeup artist to do her work, a boom microphone operator and a cameraman all assembled on the school’s track and field.
They were all there because of “Vengeful” — a planned television series, which has just finished filming its pilot episode.
Starring in the crime show are actress Brittany S. Hall as detective Lia Anderson, and Clovis North graduate Jordan Rheanne Murphy, who plays murdered teenager Danielle Blackstone.
“There’s kind of two stories going on all the time,” Murphy said. “She’s trying to find the killer of her twin sister and the second story … is, she’s trying to find out who killed Danielle Blackstone.”
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Murphy’s character is killed in the pilot episode; each time she reappears, it is as a flashback. Those flashbacks will give the viewer clues as to who the killer is.
The audience becomes involved in the search for the killer through the clues placed within each episode.
“A lot of the main characters have a secret,” said Carollyn De Vore, a talent agent who discovered Murphy four years ago and continues to represent her.
The identity of Blackstone’s killer won’t be revealed until the series finale.
The mystery around her character’s killer was engaging for Murphy.
“I have made my guesses about who is the murderer, but every time I tell the director my guess she’s just like, ‘OK,’” Murphy said. “Not knowing who did it makes it very exciting.”
During the early stages of preparing for “Vengeful,” the plan was to film in Los Angeles. But when director Nia Malika Dixon, who also wrote the script, came to meet with attorney and Murphy’s mother Rhonda Stern for counsel on crowd funding, she found many ideal filming locations in the Central Valley.
Dealing with the Valley’s summer heat provided some challenges; however, filming here had many benefits.
“It’s so easy to film in Fresno,” De Vore said. “Everyone’s so cordial, (it’s) easy to pull permits.”
Los Angeles has the infrastructure set up for filming but is much more expensive, De Vore said.
Locations for filming included Fresno High School and Manna Cafe in northeast Fresno.
Should the pilot be picked up, the series will film in Fresno on an ongoing basis.
“We may need to pick up some shots is LA, but this is our location,” said Rhonda Stern, who is the production manager on the show, and also Murphy’s mother.
While rehearsing and reading the script, Murphy found inspiration for her character in her mother’s personality and character traits.
“Danielle,” Murphy said, “she’s a very loving person and she always tried to put everyone else’s happiness before her.
“Someone that I really related to with Danielle, is actually my mother because she always acts like that: she’s very caring and always puts everyone else’s needs before her own,” Murphy said. “I really think about my mother a lot of time when I’m trying to connect to (the character).”
The Clovis North class of 2014 graduate is entering her sophomore year at California State University, Northridge, studying theater with a musical theater minor.
For much of her early life until suffering an injury to her right foot in her mid-teens, Murphy was a competitive ice skater.
“I even went to Junior Nationals two years in a row battling that injury, until finally I decided I had to quit,” Murphy said. “I went to so many doctors and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my foot. They said, ‘Oh maybe it’s an old fracture,’ ‘maybe it’s this,’ ‘maybe it’s that.’”
After getting treatment for her foot injury, Murphy found the pain kept coming back and decided to quite competitive ice skating.
After being discovered by De Vore, Murphy started acting in background roles and for onstage productions. Her most recent role was in “The Gallows,” which was also filmed in Fresno.
Murphy found that, for her, there was a natural transition from ice skating to acting.
“Ice skating is performing,” she said, “and I’ve performed all my life.”