A Laurel couple will be showing off their hometown in their own HGTV show called Home Town.
Erin and Ben Napier's pilot episode for their new show, which premiers on Jan. 24 at 11 a.m. CT, features the couple renovating homes in Laurel for new residents or former residents who are returning to their hometown.
“I don’t think anybody can ever anticipate or expect the fact that they’ll be on an HGTV show," said Erin Napier, who serves as the designer on their projects.
"Especially not in a small town in south Mississippi like this," said Ben Napier, who works more on the contracting side.
Erin said they were first contacted by an HGTV executive of original programming about 18 months ago after she found and followed her Instagram.
“It’s just social media that changes the world," Erin Napier said. "For people with small businesses like ours in a small town like Laurel, social media makes you everywhere. You're not just in Laurel."
Erin Napier said her posts are mostly of their dogs, hanging out with friends on porches in Laurel and lots of the town's special events.
"The Christmas tree lighting, pancake day, Halloween, things like that in Laurel are really, really special, and it doesn't happen in every town in America," Erin Napier said. "Lindsey, our executive at HGTV, says that Laurel is like a southern Stars hallow from Gilmore Girls, and that's how she hopes it feels when people watch the show."
After Skype interviews with people at HGTV, the station sent a crew to Laurel in November 2014 to film a "sizzle," which Erin Napier described as a five minute mini episode that was shown to the network. If the network likes that, it orders a pilot.
"So they did," Ben Napier said. "And then they sent another crew of like 10 people down in May of last year."
They filmed and renovated for six weeks in May and June 2015.
"We finished a week early, and that has never happened for HGTV," Ben Napier said.
"It was so hot," Erin Napier said. "We had people from Canada and L.A. who were like, 'guys, this is way hotter than we thought it was going to be.' But it was really fun. I hope that it comes through when you see it on Sunday, but we haven't gotten to see it. We don't get to see it until you see it!"
While it is an exciting accomplishment personally, both say they are most excited about featuring their hometown.
"They told us there are three main characters," Ben Napier said. "It'll be Erin and I and Laurel. That's really what drove this all on. When they first reached out to us about it, you know, of course we were super excited, but we only agreed to do it if it would shine a bright light on our town. One of our executive producers, the lady that owns our production company, she said that they are going to write a love story to Laurel and make it America's favorite small town, so that's pretty exciting. That's crazy."
Erin Napier said, "We hope that it can be a boost for every small business and every homeowner. Everyone who lives here, we just want them to be proud to be from here."
Matching the new homeowners with local contractors and designers to do the renovations is another way they are keeping the show local.
"We worked with Cliff Norman and Lake and Land Studios, and they hired all local people to do the work on the house," Erin Napier said. "Our production company has just been blown away. No construction company has ever finished under schedule."
Both hope that their love of Laurel and its small town atmosphere is the focus of the show.
"I think the real heart of the show is that you don't have to leave your small town to make a really big difference," Erin Napier said. "If there's something you love about your town, tell everybody about it. Don't be ashamed to be from your small town or to go back home to your small town because, like Ben said in an interview this week, that that's where most people's lives begin are in these small towns. There's something really special about going back home to them and doing what you can to be a part of them and make it great."
After the pilot airs Sunday, the Napiers said two months is the earliest they could hear back about a series. If there are enough viewers on Sunday and a series is approved, Ben said they will renovate 12 more homes in Laurel.