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NM landscapes lend biblical feel to ‘Perpetual Grace, LTD’

Jimmi Simpson spent nearly five months in New Mexico working on "Perpetual Grace, LTD." Simpson plays James in the series that premieres Sunday. (Lewis Jacobs/Epix)

Jimmi Simpson spent nearly five months in New Mexico working on “Perpetual Grace, LTD.” Simpson plays James in the series that premieres Sunday. (Lewis Jacobs/Epix)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Five years ago, an idea for a TV series made its way into a conversation between Steve Conrad and Bruce Terris.

The two filmmakers wanted to do something different – a serialized series.

bright spotThe journey began.

In November 2018, Conrad and Terris brought their project, “Perpetual Grace, LTD,” to New Mexico for production.

The series begins airing on Epix at 8 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s been wonderful,” Terris said of the journey. “It takes a lot of time to do it right.”

During that time, both men struck gold during the casting process.

Ben Kingsley, Jacki Weaver, Jimmi Simpson, Luis Guzmán, Michael Chernus and Terry O’Quinn all signed onto the project.

“We bring this collection of talent together and they have accepted our goal and we are trying to be in the cinematic world around them,” Conrad said. “When Ben Kingsley is the star, you are writing something strong enough to deserve him.”

The series follows a young grifter named James, played by Simpson, as he attempts to prey upon Pastor Byron Brown, played by Kingsley, who turns out to be far more dangerous than he suspects.

James works with Paul Allen Brown, played by Damon Herriman, as the pair design a scheme to fleece his own parents out of millions.

Pastor Brown and his wife, Lillian, played by Weaver – known to their parishioners as Pa and Ma – have used religion to bilk hundreds of innocent people out of their life savings.

As Conrad and Terris scouted locations for the series, at first, it was going to be filmed in Texas and New Mexico.

Conrad said New Mexico was bigger and grander with fewer people so the production could properly get filmed.

“We were really lucky where we filmed,” Conrad said. “We owe the visual spectacle that the series has become to the landscape. We were making the world and the characters small. If we had shot in Atlanta, it becomes Anywhere, USA. With New Mexico, there is a richness that added to the series. Ben talks about it and he said it feels biblical to be in the natural world.”

Terris said once he saw the vistas, New Mexico was the only choice.

“There’s a timeless quality to New Mexico,” Terris said. “You can’t tell when the show is taking place and when exactly does this exist.”

Production began in Santa Fe and northern New Mexico in November 2018 and wrapped in March.

Luis Guzmán portrays Hector Contreras in the series, "Perpetual Grace, LTD." The series, shot in Santa Fe and northern New Mexico, begins Sunday at 8 p.m. on Epix. (Lewis Jacobs/EPIX)

Luis Guzmán portrays Hector Contreras in the series, “Perpetual Grace, LTD.” The series, shot in Santa Fe and northern New Mexico, begins Sunday at 8 p.m. on Epix. (Lewis Jacobs/EPIX)

According to the New Mexico Film Office, the production employed about 150 New Mexico crew members, 40 New Mexico actors and 2,000 New Mexico background talent workers.

The production used a mostly New Mexican crew with the exception of a key grip and two camera men.

“We worked with native New Mexicans and they did a superb job,” Conrad said. “The crew helped add to the magic of the production. I miss the magic daily. I often caught myself thinking about what might happen every day. We are editing the final episode now and feel like this show is on a different level.”

Conrad spent many days driving from Española to Las Vegas, N.M.

The time on the road gave him a chance to get introspective about the project and life.

“Driving back to Santa Fe to watch the sunsets was one of my favorite things,” Conrad said. “Even after a 12-hour day.”

The production also utilized the natural light.

“You want to wait for the sun to move and then turn the camera towards it,” Conrad said. “We purposely followed the sun. You feel it even more deeply and it has that much majesty.”

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