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Originally published March 26, 2011 at 7:03 PM | Page modified March 28, 2011 at 12:07 PM

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'The Killing': dark, twisty TV murder-mystery set in Seattle but filmed in Vancouver

A preview of AMC's new TV show "The Killing," a dark, twisty murder-mystery set in Seattle.

Special to The Seattle Times

TV preview

'The Killing'

9 p.m. April 3, AMC.

Tonight in Prime Time

Every few years, TV writers get an urge to use the Seattle area as the backdrop for a dark, twisty TV show — most notably, ABCs "Twin Peaks" (1990-91), and then Fox's "Millennium" (1996-99). Now it's AMC's turn with "The Killing," a murder-mystery with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. April 3.

AMC, home to "Mad Men" and the decidedly dark "Breaking Bad," does not shy away from more challenging material, so it's a natural network fit for a somber story about the murder of a teenage girl. Instead of asking, "Who killed Laura Palmer?" (the "Twin Peaks" mantra), "The Killing" asks, "Who killed Rosie Larsen?" and begins the process of answering the question without any of the lighter/weirder elements that distinguished "Peaks" (there's not a dancing dwarf in sight).

Developed for television by former "Cold Case" writer Veena Sud and based on the 2007 Danish series "Forbrydelsen," "The Killing" is shot in Vancouver, B.C., just as "Millennium" was. Sud said Vancouver was chosen for logistical reasons — but finances are often another reason American television shows set up shop in Hollywood North.

"My heart was set on filming in Seattle, but it was purely for production reasons," she said. "It's incredibly cinematic a la AMC style."

A second unit crew — pilot director Patty Jenkins ("Monster's Ball") and two cinematographers — did some shooting in Seattle last June, capturing establishing shots of the city and aerial views.

Actress Mireille Enos, who played twin polygamist sisters on HBO's "Big Love," stars in "The Killing" as homicide detective Sarah Linden. "The Killing" pivots among three stories: Linden's investigation; the dead girl's grieving mother (Michelle Forbes, "True Blood") and father (Brent Sexton, "Life"); and the office of Seattle mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell, "The 4400"), who may have a connection to the murder.

Doing research as she was writing the pilot, Sud visited Seattle for the first time.

"The graphic beauty of Seattle was so compelling; it reminded me of Copenhagen in the Danish series, incredibly brooding and tragic," said Sud, who grew up outside Cincinnati. She was unconcerned about past series set in Seattle — she's never watched "Twin Peaks" — and intrigued by the notion of setting "The Killing" in the state known as the home of serial killers Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway (aka "The Green River Killer").

"As I started to research more about Seattle, it became clear it's one of the most liberal cities in America and one of the most literate ... and yet it's also a city with a dark underbelly," she said. "It has a huge runaway population that's very striking when you're a visitor to the city and see so many of these lost kids."

Sud said she hopes to return to Seattle for more second-unit filming if the show gets picked up for a second season, and she doesn't rule out principle photography in Seattle with the show's cast.

"One of the things we learned shooting one city for another is the importance of capturing the spirit of a place versus the literal landmarks," she said. "When you live in a city, you don't walk down the tourist section, which is what we see all the time: 'Hey, I live in New York; I'm gonna walk down Times Square,' but if you live in New York, you never walk in Times Square. So it forced us to think, if you live in a place, what do you really do, where do you really go, where do you have conversations and scenes that are not the easy kind of, 'Hey, this is Seattle.' "

So, in "The Killing," one of the potential suspects lives on an island inspired by Sud's visit to Mercer Island (the suspect's house is the same one used as Daniel and Amanda Graystone's mansion on "Caprica").

"I fell in love with Mercer Island, with the floating bridge, all those parts of Seattle," she said. "When you go to another city to shoot, you have to fall in love with stuff there if something feels right. I know the mountains aren't that close to Mercer Island. Geographically, we're trying to be as truthful as we can, but your heart also has to lead the direction if something feels right."

Freelance writer Rob Owen: RobOwenTV@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV.

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