CITY OF NEWBURGH — Chuck Thomas, the Newburgh Free Library director, got a front-row seat to the action Wednesday as he spent the day watching Mark Ruffalo and an HBO crew film a dramatic scene for an upcoming limited series based off a Wally Lamb novel of the same name, "I Know This Much Is True."

Ruffalo, who lives in Sullivan County, and a group of background actors performing as library staff and patrons repeatedly practiced a scene, set in the 1990s, in which Ruffalo's character makes an impassioned spiritual statement protesting events in the Middle East and uses a knife to sacrificially cut off his right hand.

Preparation for the shoot began at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and filming started about noon. The library was closed to public access for the day while it was used for the setting.

By about 5 p.m., and approximately 18 takes later, Thomas said they started using fake blood and a prosthetic hand to portray the gruesome and emotional scene. Luckily, a spare piece of carpet Thomas provided caught all the mess. Just shy of 24 hours later, the library was back to normal and re-opened, Thomas said.

Thomas watched most of the early takes from the entrance-level floor, peeking over the library's balcony down to the reading area where filming was taking place.

About 150 people, including production, actors and other support staff, were involved in the filming, Thomas said.

"We all agreed it was a really interesting and enlightening experience to see what really goes into making a film like this," Thomas said Thursday. "And the level of commitment on behalf of the actors, by Ruffalo and the librarian ladies, I mean, he (Ruffalo) was really in the zone. He was that person he was portraying. It was really remarkable to see."

Near the latter part of shooting, Thomas said he was able to watch some of the scenes from the view of the cameras.

Filming for Ruffalo's series will continue at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center next week.

lbellamy@th-record.com