The fictional town where HBO's The Leftovers takes place — Mapelton, New York — is one seriously messed up place. Sure, two percent of its population vanished into thin air three years ago, leaving behind bereft loved ones and confused bystanders... but that happened in cities all over the world. In Mapleton specifically, we've got a maybe-crazy police chief, a definitely-crazy police chief's father, a marauding dog-killer, teenagers who play violent games of spin-the-bottle, a grieving mother who hires hookers to shoot her, and a reverend who believes he's receiving signs straight from God. And that's not even to mention the homicidal, smoking cult The Guilty Remnant, which has set up shop in an innocent-looking subdivision.
But where exactly is this David Lynch-ian suburb? (We want to know because we want to avoid accidentally stumbling into it one day at all costs — that's how just about all horror movies start, right?) If you Google "Mapleton, NY" you do actually get a hit. It's located in Niagara County, about a six-and-a-half hour drive from midtown Manhattan. Mapleton is sandwiched between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, located right on the border with Ontario, Canada. It's technically a hamlet, one of six that lie within the larger municipality of Pendleton, NY, which itself is only a town of 6,050 people.
So, does HBO actually film The Leftovers in Mapleton? No, but the show doesn't shoot in Canada, like many series these days, or on a backlot in Hollywood — it films in Westchester County, New York. Westchester is only about a thirty-minute drive north of Manhattan, which gives it that distinctive NYC suburb vibe. The Leftovers has filmed scenes in various towns in the county, including Mount Vernon, Harrison, and Hastings-On-Hudson. The series has also filmed in nearby Rockland County, New York. The main shoot is based out of Haven Studios in Mount Vernon, a New York State Qualified Production Facility that houses dressing rooms for the cast, shop space for building sets, storage rooms for props, and production offices for the crew.
If HBO's depiction of Mapleton feels vaguely familiar, there's a very good reason. The Leftovers isn't the only HBO show to shoot in Westchester: parts of both Boardwalk Empire and Girls were filmed in the county. CBS is no stranger to the location either, occasionally shooting for Elementary, The Good Wife, and Person Of Interest there. FX's The Americans, NBC's The Blacklist, and FOX's The Following are among the other current television shows that utilize the county's all-American Main Streets for their productions.
Of all the shows and films shot in Westchester, perhaps the one that resonates thematically the most with The Leftovers is Sam Mendes' 2008 film Revolutionary Road. That film and the HBO series share a similarly bleak tone, with their characters trapped in the motions of a typical suburban life while being devoured by their own grief. The Boston Review once quoted Revolutionary Road author Richard Yates as saying, "If my work has a theme, I suspect it is a simple one: that most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lies their tragedy."
If that sentence doesn't describe The Leftovers in a nutshell, then I don't know what does.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article did not state that The Leftovers has also filmed in Rockland County, New York.
Images: Paul Schiraldi/HBO (3)