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Locals shine on biggest stages: TV shows, movies and Netflix originals tied to Kern County

Dillon James
Posted at 7:52 AM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 11:45:12-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — With entertainment venues and theatres shut down, more people turned to their television in 2020. If you noticed, some of the biggest shows, movies and names had ties to Kern County.

A musical debut to 2020 was local singer/songwriter, Dillon James, who made it to the final on American Idol this year. His swan song on the show, he performed virtually in his parent’s backyard.

"To be two years into my sobriety, trying to figure out my life and American Idol pops out of nowhere, it kind of feels like make believe at first, but as I started making it through more and more rounds, my life turned into this dream," James said.

Bakersfield-based musician and New Life Church pastor, Jim Ranger didn’t miss a beat on The Voice. he made it all the way to the top on team Blake Shelton, placing second for the season.

From music to film and television: After 30 years of commuting back and forth from Bakersfield to Hollywood, local Bakersfield man, Michael Ornelaz struck gold, a gold statuette, that is. Ornelaz and his team took home an Emmy this year for special effects make-up on Star Trek: Picard. That was in addition to being nominated for his work on Disney+ plus show, The Mandalorian.

“As a kid, that’s all I dreamt about: imagining different characters from different universes, playing it up and being able to actually physically create and use my imagination,” Ornelaz said. “It has come full circle.”

And a full-circle moment for another Bakersfield native, Marvin Lemus. He co-created and directed Netflix's Gentefied and said he drew much inspiration from his upbringing in Kern County.

"This story, you could say helped me find an appreciation and a love for my hometown in a way that I had struggled with for a long time,” Lemus said. “I never felt like I belonged anywhere. It was hard to feel like I could own my hometown."

And we cannot forget to mention that Netflix’s The Prom and Edward James Olmos’ film, The Devil has a Name. Both came out this year and were filmed here in Kern County.

The prom stars Nicole Kidman, James Corden and Meryl Streep and was filmed in part at Mechanics Bank Arena. The Devil has a Name was directed and stars Edward James Olmos as well as Kate Bosworth and David Straithairn. Film locations around the county include a farm in Shafter, Buck Owens Crystal Palace and Casablanca Nightclub.

“I loved it, and they treated us with such respect and kindness. I really appreciated being in Bakersfield and in that area,” Olmos said.