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Northern Nevadans appear in Weather Channel Donner Party documentary

Locals featured in Donner Party Weather Channel documentary
Locals featured in Donner Party Weather Channel documentary
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RENO, Nev. (KRNV & - Northern Nevadans will be on televisions across the country as they appear in The Weather Channel Original premier of "Dead of Winter: Donner Party."

The Donner Party's infamous journey across the Sierra Nevada is a story of desperation and survival in the pursuit of America's Manifest Destiny.

"These are all real people. These are all lives that were impacted. These are all families that were impacted and on some of these, there were lives that were destroyed," says Darrin Miller, a local actor casted in the film.

In January, Integrity Casting hosted an open call in Reno. Romi Williams and Danielle Shumard were chosen for the roles of Patty Reed and Virginia Reed, respectively. It's the first production for both of the young actors.

"I'm very excited to watch it because I've never been in one before and I've never been on TV, like I've never seen myself," says Williams.

"It was really cool because it was so different you got to see all the people and they were so nice," says Schumard of her experience on set.

Miller, a professional local actor, plays the featured role of James Reed, who was one of the Donner party's main organizers.

He says preparing for the role was no easy task.

"To be honest, it's kind of hard to comprehend what those people actually would have had to go through-the desperation, the feeling and the need that they would have to do some of the acts that happened."

Many of the settlers in the Donner party died, and some succumbed to cannibalism to survive.

Much of the filming was out of state due to lack of snow in Nevada, but some scenes were shot locally.

"A lot of it we shot in Minden- and that was on their way out and that was the part that I was in," says David Block, who appears in the film as the photographer in the group.

Many of these film opportunities are typically in Los Angeles, but Block says,"These opportunities are coming up and Northern Nevada is going to be a hotbed for productions."

These local actors say they hope more high quality productions like "Dead of Winter" continue tapping into this acting community.

"Reno, Northern Nevada- you go down to Carson- you go up to the Tahoe area, there is an amazing pool of talent in this geographic region," Miller says.

Linda Emmons (Sarah Keyes), Robert Scott (Jacob Donner), and Janee England (Elizabeth Donner) were cast by local casting director Toni Suttie of Integrity Casting, and veteran Hollywood casting director, Fern Champion in lead and supporting roles, as well as a number of locals in additional supporting and featured roles.
The Donner Party" premieres Friday, November 27 at 9pm ET on The Weather Channel, with multiple encore presentations on Thanksgiving weekend.

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