Carroll O'Connor wrote several scripts, under the pseudonym Matt Harris, for the show and two "In the Heat of the Night" movies. He worked under the pseudonym concerned that his scripts would not be received well by television critics.
During the series there is a photo behind the chief's desk, the photo is a of Rod Steiger in costume as the chief from the movie.
The beautiful, white house Bill Gillespie bought at the start of season 7 was an actual residence in Covington, GA. After the series ended, it sat empty and neglected for years, with one fan reportedly describing it as "falling to pieces". It has since been purchased again and has been beautifully remodeled.
After the series ended, the house which served as Virgil Tibbs' home sat empty for a few years, before being divided up and used as office space.
The building used for exterior shots of the Sparta Police Department was actually the Newton County Library (later re-named the Porter Memorial Library) on Monticello Street in Covington, GA. Since the show ended, it has been home to various medical equipment supply companies. Interior shots of the Sparta PD were shot on a set built on a soundstage in an industrial building a couple blocks over.
The season after Howard E. Rollins Jr. left the cast, he did return for several guest appearances. However, Anne-Marie Johnson (who played Althea) chose to join the cast of "In Living Color. Her absence was explained by having Althea & Virgil separate because of her having emotional problems stemming not only from her rape, but the stress of her being married to a policeman.
During the period when Howard E. Rollins Jr. was in rehab, Virgil was said to be in Jackson, MS completing his law school studies. Also, when Carroll O'Connor was recovering from heart surgery, his absence was explained by having him attend a police convention.
The season 7 episode "Every Man's Family" was meant as the pilot for a proposed spinoff for the character of Bubba Skinner. The network did not have any available slots at the time it was first broadcast and In the Heat of the Night ended soon after, so the spinoff never materialized. It would have been set in Atlanta.
Bubba's first name was never revealed, although in print, he was sometimes referred to as V. L. "Bubba" Skinner. In fact, in the episode "A Small War", when he was asked if he had a first name, his response was "Yes mam, i do. But "Bubba" will do just fine".
The first season was filmed in Hammond, Louisiana, before moving to Conyers and Covington, Georgia for the rest of the series. That would explain why the 'look' of Sparta changed after season one.
Carroll O'Connor was replaced for some episodes by Joe Don Baker, playing Acting Chief Tom Dugan, while O'Connor recuperated from open heart surgery. Carroll wanted his surgery to be written into the show, but NBC would not honor his request.
The 1989 season was played slightly out of order. The previous season ended with a cliffhanger. However, Carroll O'Connor, who also served as executive producer, wanted to begin the next season with the episode in which Althea Tibbs is raped because he felt that that particular episode had a strong message and that it should be the season opener. The continuation to the cliffhanger was shown a few episodes into that season with Gillespie recapping the events of what happened when he was kidnapped and the events surrounding that period.
During the time Heat was filmed, the building which served as the McGuffy House was Michelangelo Italian Restaurant & Bar in Conyers, GA and was the favorite restaurant of 'Dan Bigger's, who played Dr. Frank Robb on the show.
Even though Virgil Tibbs was referred to as "Detective", his official rank on the Sparta police force was Captain.
Filmed in the same town, Conyers, Georgia, that the show The Dukes of Hazzard (1979) was filmed in for the first eight episodes of the show.
Howard E Rollins Jr. had previously starred in A Soldiers Story (1984), which was directed by Norman Jewison. Jewison had directed the 1967 film version of In the Heat of the Night.
The tan Dodge Diplomat which was used as a Sparta police undercover vehicle in Seasons 7 and 8 was simply Virgil Tibbs' blue car with a fresh paint job. It still had the same D.A.R.E. bumper sticker on the rear bumper.
Dan Biggers, who played Dr. Frank Robb on the show, had a great grandfather who was once sheriff of Newton County, GA, the actual county where In The Heat Of The Night was filmed.
The building used as the Magnolia Café was, and still is, Gary Massey Agency on Monticello Street in Covington, GA.
The name of Gillespie's dog was Beureguard. The name of Bubba's dog was Knothead. The dogs the police used to sniff out drugs were Samson and Delilah.
Besides being filmed in Covington, GA, this series has a few other connections to the 1992 movie My Cousin Vinny:. MCV used the same courtroom set featured in every courtroom scene on Heat. Jill Jane Clemens, who plays the court reporter in MCV, also played Maudie the pawnbroker on Heat. The building that served as Munn's Market in In the Heat of the Night: A Frenzied Affair (1992) was also used as the Sac-O-Suds in MCV. The tan Ford Bronco that was used as Bubba Skinner's personal vehicle was also used as the truck Joe Pesci & Lane Smith used for their hunting excursion in MCV.
The building used in shots of the exterior of Sparta's police station was actually the post office and, later, the public library in Covington, GA. The Mason-Dixon Line bar was a beauty parlor in reality.
Season 1 was filmed in Hammond, LA, which at the time (1988) had a population of about 15,000. In season 1, there were 4 murders over the course of 8 shows. In all of the 14 shows televised in 1988, there were a total of 8 murders. In the real Hammond, the earliest year the FBI has crime data is 1993. From 1993-1995, there were only 2 murders in Hammond.