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Justin Timberlake Shakes Up Southern Town

03/04/2008 at 10:15 AM EST

Justin Timberlake Shakes Up Southern Town
Justin Timberlake on The Open Road set
The town of Hammond, La., may be just 20 miles south of Britney Spears's old stomping grounds of Kentwood, but it's her childhood ex – Justin Timberlake – who's turning heads in the municipality (pop. 18,000).

In southern Louisiana to shoot the movie The Open Road, Timberlake, 27, plays the son of a baseball legend (Jeff Bridges) who reunites with his family when his mother (Mary Steenburgen) takes ill. Kate Mara plays Timberlake's girlfriend.

For the past couple of weeks, the "SexyBack" singer has been shooting in Hammond (home to the first season of TV's In the Heat of the Night) and nearby Independence, where he has been sighted by – and interacting with – many fans.

One stop has been Tope La, a seafood restaurant in downtown Hammond.

"He was very nice," waitress Sarah Guillot, 19, tells PEOPLE. "He took a picture with me and gave me an autograph for my little sister."

On Saturday, a few dozens fans lined the downtown Independence streets to catch a glimpse of the star. One of them, 15-year-old Lee Ann David, says she had hoped to land a part as an extra, but she was happy just to watch the cast and crew at work.

"I took his picture yesterday," David says. "I wasn't supposed to, but I did."

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