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New ABC series with Southold police chief as main character premieres Tuesday

09/23/2019 2:00 PM |

Southold Town police vehicles, an establishing shot of the vintage Coronet sign in Greenport and a reference to the Mattituck Airport will all appear on primetime Tuesday as the new ABC show “Emergence” airs its pilot episode.

And that’s just what you’ll see and hear in the first three minutes of the series, in which Emmy-nominated actor Allison Tolman (“Fargo”) plays the chief of a fictionalized Southold Town Police Department.

While the supernatural thriller filmed in Southold Town and the Village of Greenport in March, it’s clear right from the start that the Southold on the show is not the same location you all know and love, even if the police vehicles and uniforms appear identical to the ones used by the local department.

New Jersey Motion Picture & Television Commission records suggest most of the filming took place in that state. The mysterious event the show’s opening minutes center around, for example, were filmed at Island Beach State Park in Ocean County, N.J. Southold police vehicles are prominent in the scene.

Emergence co-star Alexa Swinton wears a Southold Town police jacket in an early scene in the first episode of “Emergence.” (Credit: ABC promotional photo)

Martin Flatley, the actual chief of the Southold Town Police Department, said though the town did approve permits to film locally, officials were surprised to see the department’s logo used so prominently in promotional materials for the new show. In particular, a Southold police chief jacket is prominent in the show’s trailer and photographs used on its posters.

“We were alerted to the trailers that came out for the show a couple of months ago,” Chief Flatley said in an email. “They did not ask permission for the use of the PD patch at any time during the filming process that they conducted here in Southold earlier in the year either. We did not participate in the filming.”

Town Attorney Bill Duffy said the town is currently researching the unauthorized use of the town police patch in the series, though he’s not sure there’s anything illegal about it.

“We didn’t know they intended to use our logos,” Mr. Duffy said. “We’re researching what, if anything, we should do.”

In a post written for a film trade blog, intellectual property attorney Randy Whatoff said filmmakers are generally protected when using a police name and logo in a production, though some departments have sought trademark protection for their names and logos. He used the NYPD and LAPD as examples in his post.

A photo taken as crews set up to film the pilot of “Emergence” in March. (Credit: Cyndi Zaweski)

“Emergence,” which airs its first episode at 10 p.m. Tuesday, tells the story of “a police chief who takes in a young child she finds near the site of a mysterious accident and the investigation draws her into a conspiracy larger than she ever imagined,” according to a description on the show’s website.

The series is part of a Tuesday night ABC lineup with at least one other Long Island connection. The new show “mixed-ish” stars Coram native Tika Sumpter, a 1998 graduate of Longwood High School.

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