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‘It was always Oscarville:’ TV series aims to dive deep into Lake Lanier history, share story behind a Forsyth County Black community
Oscarville
Sean Harris, his wife and two kids, star as the Harris family in “Oscarville: Below the Surface.” The family depicts the life of the average resident in the rural, majority Black town that used to reside in northeast Forsyth.

This is the first part of a two-part series about "Oscarville: Below the Surface." Click here to read the second part of the series and learn more about Oscarville and why the television cast and crew felt passionate about sharing its story.


Many living in North Georgia have heard the tales of what lies beneath Lake Sidney Lanier.  

From graves buried by the water to supernatural sightings near Browns Bridge, rumors surrounding Lanier continue to be shared not just across Georgia, but across the country, garnering attention toward what some call Georgia’s most haunted lake.  

But for Bob Mackey, stories of Lake Lanier can’t be shared before exploring the story of Oscarville, the rural majority Black community that once stood in northeastern Forsyth near the border of Hall County on a portion of the land used to build the lake.  

The Jackson County resident said he has always been interested in the history surrounding Lake Lanier, but he didn’t learn about the town that once stood in its place until later in life.   

Learning more, he knew the story of those who lived there needed to be told.  

A few years ago, he started talking to directors and production companies about the possibility of creating a film or television show based on the events surrounding Oscarville. Over time, though, he said the idea never took hold.  

“So I just picked up pen and paper one day and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it,” Mackey said. “I’m going to write it, co-direct it, cast it. I’m going to get with some awesome executive associate producers, and we’re going to raise some dollars for it.   

“We’re going to bring this story to life.”  

And over the course of the past year, he has made it happen.  

Through the work of a talented cast and all Black crew, Mackey and Mad Scientists Productions partnered to help to create what is now “Oscarville: Below the Surface,” a television show featuring the town and its residents before and after Lake Lanier was built. 

Oscarville
What is it about?  

Set to premier on Feb. 5, the show centers around the fictional Harris family, who are meant to represent the average family living in Oscarville at the time, with the show starting out in the 1940s and ‘50s.  

Working as farmers in Oscarville, the family finds themselves embroiled in what becomes a heated conflict between Forsyth County and the Black community.   

While a fictional Sheriff speaks to the residents in Oscarville about the selling of property in the area for the building of what will become Lake Lanier, Mackey said an unexpected event takes place, causing that rift between the county and the Oscarville community.  

After that, many of the farmers agree not to sell the land, leading to many being forced away from their properties and homes in the show.  

The Harris family must eventually leave, but Mackey said viewers must keep watching to see how they find their way back home.  

Throughout this telling, Mackey said he and his team make sure to depict Oscarville not as “this town underneath, but as a community within.” Each character living in the town is dedicated to helping their community, showing a thriving Black town instead of the abandoned farmland that Mackey said many remember Oscarville for.  

Tying fiction with fact  

While “Oscarville: Below the Surface” is a fictional story, Mackey said the show also ties in local history from both Forsyth and Hall counties.   

He, along with the cast and crew, dove into research for this project, focusing on Forsyth County’s difficult history with race.  

Corey “Leek the Legend,” co-director and producer on the show, said he had never known about Oscarville before beginning this project despite growing up in metro Atlanta. Now, he can’t believe how much he has learned about the town, Lake Lanier and the community.  

He said he questioned why he had never heard the story of Oscarville before, and he quickly realized it was because no one was telling it.   

“Nobody has made [a show like] this before,” Leek said. “This is huge. This is an opportunity.”  

Mackey said the show jumps around in time, merging the events of 1912 in Forsyth County with those in the 1940s and ‘50s when local leaders began building the lake.  

The 1912 riots began after a mob of nearly 2,000 white Forsyth County residents beat and killed Robert Edwards, a Black man accused of the alleged rape and murder of Sleety Mae Crow, a young white woman in the county. Edward’s body was dragged through downtown Cumming and hung from a telephone pole.  

Mobs then tore through the county, driving out the estimated 1,100 Black residents in the county.  

Each of these events take place during the first season of the show, which Mackey said will be eight total episodes. They haven’t partnered with a network to host the show, but Mackey said they hope to soon.   

For now, they plan to host the premier at Atlanta State Metropolitan College to help kick off the beginning of the Black history program in February.   

For updates and more information leading up to the show, visit www.oscarvilletheseries.com.  

Looking forward to a successful first season, Mackey said he and the crew hope to continue the story, jumping ahead to the civil rights movement and the events of 1987 when Black leaders like Coretta Scott King and Hosea Williams marched through Forsyth County with thousands of protestors.  

“Getting all of these small pieces of the puzzle to paint a beautiful picture, I think that is our overall goal,” Mackey said. 

Story continues below. 

Oscarville
Actress Misty Ellington falls into her role as Agent Howard, a law enforcement rookie investigating drowning and disappearances on Lake Lanier.

‘Cast the heart’  

Carl Cochrane, a producer, cinematographer and editor on the show and the owner of Mad Scientist Productions out of Atlanta, said their dedicated and passionate cast and crew is really what has brought to life the vision of the show.  

Cochrane carefully selected each of the cast members, keeping in mind that they wanted people on the team who would truly pay homage to the residents of Oscarville and bring the story to life in a way that resonated with audiences.  

“I wanted to cast the heart,” he said. “I wanted to cast people who when you tell them about the story, they go research themselves or they have such a love to share it, that it comes through the characters.”  

The cast includes many metro Atlanta locals, including Drew Giles, Kenisha Johnson, Stevie Baggs, Kay Nicole, Bill Watts and Misty Ellington.   

This first season also features Sean Harris and his family who play the fictional Harris family in the show. He stars alongside his wife and two kids.  

Mackey said this is the family’s first time ever performing for television, but “they are amazing.” He said Sean captures the story and character perfectly, using heart and passion for sharing a part of local history.  

“He has captified all of my wishes,” Mackey said. “And his son, his wife and daughter, they’ve rehearsed together time after time.”  

While the rest of the crew has nearly a decade of experience in cinematography and production, Mackey said this is also his first foray into television.  

After writing the script for the show, he decided to take on the roles of executive producer and co-director, beginning a large project outside of his more than 15-year career working with children.  

He was able to make it on television for the first time in February earlier this year, taking his business partner with him to the set of the television series “Shark Tank” to show off their invention, the Yono Clip.  

Outside of that, Mackey had never written a script or taken part in a production. He began the project entirely out of a passion for the story and people.  

And he used the opportunity to try to open a space for lesser-known local talent to take part in a large project.  

“If you can get the team together, it’s unlimited hearts you can inspire,” Mackey said. “I want to put people to work. I want to give people chances.”  

Most of all, Mackey and the rest of the crew agree that they want to ensure the story of those who lived in Oscarville is heard and educate others on local history they may have forgotten. Together, they hope to pay respect to the history while paving the way for a better future in Forsyth and Hall counties.  

“For us, it was always Oscarville,” Mackey said. “You have to start there.”  

Stay tuned for the second part of this series to learn more about why the cast took on this project and what really happened in Oscarville all those years ago.  

For more information, visit www.oscarvilletheseries.com.  

Oscarville
Bob Mackey, left, stands with Director of Photography Kevin Garrett, Co-Director and Producer Carl Cochrane and Co-Director Corey “Leek the Legend.” - photo by Sabrina Kerns
Oscarville
The set of "Oscarville: Below the Surface."