PHOTOGRAPHY BY HEATHER SAUNDERS
Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson’s delightfully screwball buddy comedy series, Detroiters, follows the exploits of two bumbling ad men in the Motor City, which Richardson says “is the third star in the show.” In the second season, currently airing on Comedy Central, a family reunion brings the cast to the Frederick Law Olmsted–designed Belle Isle Park, a 982-acre island in the Detroit River between Michigan and Ontario. Today, the park is a gathering spot for family cookouts like the one depicted in the episode, with amusements including an aquarium, a driving range, and a giant slide. “To a kid from Detroit, there was nothing more exciting than the words ‘big slide,’” Richardson says.
Belle Isle is also home to a number of historic buildings, including the Nancy Brown Peace Carillon Tower, pictured here behind Robinson and costar Shawntay Dalon. The neo-Gothic bell tower was built to honor a popular Detroit News advice columnist who wrote under the name Nancy Brown (real name: Annie Louise Leslie). In 1934, the writer promoted a religious sunrise service on Belle Isle to her readers, and tens of thousands showed up; when she publicized a campaign to build a carillon tower in the park, more than 60,000 readers donated to the construction of the 85-foot-tall structure, which was completed in 1940 without any city funding.
On Detroiters, Richardson and Robinson are committed to creating an authentic portrayal of their hometown, deliberately choosing locations that have special significance for locals. “We wanted people from Detroit to see this episode and instantly be brought back to memories of their own family get-togethers or good times at the park,” Robinson says. Adds Richardson: “The city of Detroit is not composed entirely of the ruin porn that you see in the media. There is a real and beautiful city there filled with real and beautiful people and love.”