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Hap and Leonard: How James Purefoy avoided being eaten by on-set alligators

‘It’s quite hairy filming in a swamp’

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Hilary Gayle/SundanceTV

Actor James Purefoy (The Following) was raised in the English county of Somerset, an area which is notable, among other things, for its complete lack of alligators. So, shooting in the swamps of Louisiana for SundanceTV’s new crime drama Hap and Leonard was an at times an unsettling experience for the Brit.

“The most dangerous thing we’re going to come across [in Somerset] is a badger,” says Purefoy, whose costars on the show include Michael Kenneth Williams and Christina Hendricks. “It’s quite hairy filming in a swamp or just filming in very rural Louisiana. There are copperhead snakes, alligators. We had men with guns on the set making sure alligators didn’t nip our ankles.”

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The cast and crew also had to deal with the tempestuous Louisiana climate. “We had a tornado on the first day we were shooting, which was an alarming experience,” says Purefoy. “Suddenly the sky went very dark green, and an incredible wind went up, followed by torrential torrential rain, the like of which I’ve never seen before. We were all told that we could go home, but within five minutes of that happening the sky had gone completely clear, as if somebody had turned the lights back on again, and then everything was okay. The weather changes really fast down there, really very fast. We’re not the first people to film in Louisiana, so people are very used to it. But I’m not used to extreme levels of climate. I’m used to a soft drizzle!”

Hap and Leonard debuts Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on SundanceTV — see a trailer below.