Friday, October 7, 2011

Report From The Set: The Vancouver Diaries...

Thanks to the fine folks at WBTV, I was finally able to pop my Canada cherry! That's right, Made Possible by Pop Culture spent the last week up in not-so-sunny Vancouver*, visiting the sets of Supernatural, Fringe, The Secret Circle, Alcatraz, and Once Upon a Time. Full disclosure: I was credentialed through LA Examiner, and that is the website on which you will find all of my interviews with the casts and producers. However, if you want some random fun-time commentary and nerdy fan photos, you can feel free to keep reading right here!

After an early morning flight from LAX to YVR, I, along with some of my fave fellow journalists, loaded into a pass van and headed to Storybrooke. Once Upon a Time, an ABC production, was our first stop on our rainy tour of Vancouver, but prior to even clearing customs the fun had begun with a soon-to-be groan-inducing game of "Movie Mash-up." This was something born out of Cougar Town and perfected on a previous set visit trip. You offer a logline to a new movie that combines the plot of two already existing movies whose titles overlap. Since we're all TV reporters, we stretched the rules of the game a bit to include TV titles...and in the case of my friend Natalie, one very special person. "Rosa Parks and Recreation," anyone? Seriously, it's more fun that I may make it sound. Try it on your next road trip!

Storybrooke Maine is being housed on soundstages, and we got to tour a few of the sets, including Granny's Diner, the Mayor's Office, and what is now an abandoned mineshaft. All of these are from the "real world," not the fairytale land, as much of that filming is done off in the woods. We watched a little bit of filming between two of our favorite female formidable opponents of this fall season, Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) after conducting interviews with everyone from those two women to executive producer Steve Pearlman, "heart" of the show Jared Gilmore, perfect princess Ginnifer Goodwin, and of course, Prince Charming himself, Josh Dallas. As if I didn't miss my own dog enough upon landing, Parrilla had hers wandering the offices, as well. So how evil could this queen be!? If you want to see for yourself, you should probably follow her on Twitter, an account Parrilla told us she started herself. Once Upon A Time won't premiere until October 23rd, but since I've already watched the pilot six times (and selected it as my favorite new series for fall), I was in my happy place right away. Even aside from the drawer full of Canadian candy in the production offices' kitchen.

From Storybrooke, where I hope I didn't age!, to Alcatraz... The following morning was spent in the recreation of the infamous North California prison where Jorge Garcia and Sarah Jones were working on the FOX mid-season drama. Though we spent ample time posing in "the yard" and the cells, and studying the wall of mugshots, in addition to interviewing both actors and EP Jack Bender, I really can't say much about this set. The show doesn't have an air date yet, and I don't want to spoil anything for the fans-- even the ones who already saw the pilot at Comic Con. All I will point out, though, is that movie magic runs rampant in these sets: each cell-block a seemingly perfect recreation of the original, the real. My photos from "inside" have to be kept underwraps, too, so for now, please enjoy a placeholder: a shot of fourteen year-old me in one of the actual Alcatraz island cells.

Day two also brought a brief appearance of the Supernatural boys. Smack dab in the middle of filming some critical moments in the "wedding" episode of season seven, the location was too close quarters at which for us to observe, but we hit base camp to chat with Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki for a few minutes outside the lunch tent. And of course have some delicious Green Machine catering. They made a cameo appearance in "The French Mistake." Look for them! And if you're ever shooting something in Vancouver, hire them! Their scones are ah-mah-zing!

Anywhoo, sitting down with Ackles and Padalecki together is the best way to get insight into how things work on that set. After all of these years they seem to actually work together like brothers, easily and smoothly, and when one would hint at a spoiler or special moment from a particular episode, even using vague enough language not to completely give it all away, the other always knew exactly what he was talking about. I'll admit it, though: it's still a bummer to see Ackles in wardrobe other than Dean's weathered brown leather jacket...

We just couldn't get enough of Supernatural-- at least *I* couldn't-- so I requested that we visit the Impala, too. The press trip that went up last year got to take pictures in it, and I'll admit it: I was supremely jealous when all of those photos started hitting Facebook! So the awesome Jim Michaels graciously allowed us to come to the soundstages super early the next morning to pay our respects to the car, tour the current standing sets, and peek into the prop room for play with the Colt, the Angel-killing knives, and a few other goodies. I'm not going to lie: I know I was there to be a professional, and I loved every second of the intelligent conversation I got to have with all of the talent behind some of my favorite shows television has to offer, but I got an even bigger kick out of the prop room. The devil's in the details, right? Whether it's character details or actual, tangible items placed around a set, those are the things that I feel enrich a show and create a real, believable story.

To my surprise, when we hit Walter's lab on the set of Fringe just a few hours after Supernatural, those details were everywhere. I don't know why I expected things to be boxed up, or at least covered with tarps so that Set Dec wouldn't have a huge job on their hands before the next scene filmed in there, but there were clever items everywhere. My favorite? The "Cake and Pies" book lying on Walter's desk in his current sleeping quarters. And also his insanely messy second desk. I had to really fight the urge to clean, knowing the union would get pissed if I moved things around. They knew we were coming, so maybe what was once neatly packed or covered was exposed for our own personal amusement, and if that's the case then I owe them even more gratitude. Because trust me, we were highly amused. Not only did we take pictures of everything, but it was there that we were inspired to create a narrative slideshow to commemorate the trip.

...You probably shouldn't ask about the slideshow. [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS] It's probably only funny to those of us on the trip. We were getting quite punchy, even early in...

This was the first time I was meeting a lot of these actors in person-- in fact, this was the first time I was interviewing a lot of these actors at all, even if I had previously been on conference calls with some of them. John Noble is one of the most gracious men I have ever met, though. He walked into a small group of us and immediately thanked us all for coming and noted that we were all friends in this space. He remembered those who had interviewed him before, as well. Fringe is a show I am new to covering-- I was not caught up on it until this past summer-- but I love the genuine passion that all of its players have for the project. Above and beyond the smart writing and completely original (even if sometimes extremely confusing) story throughlines, this is why I am so happy to see that show succeeding.

Jasika Nicole, too, came in on her day off to sit down with us and provide honest and thoughtful answers to our theories about the show's new universe and the conspiracy theory that would take over once Peter's return was no longer a giant question mark. And she also gives really good advice, pointing out that since I can't print my current theory right now in case it does prove to contain spoilers, even unintentionally, I can just claim I was right later when the truth is revealed. There will be no online footprint to prove otherwise!

After a brief "writing and cupcake break," it was time to head out to the lake for The Secret Circle. But first: the cupcakes. My friend Clarissa shared that the place we were going to had its own reality show. It is a bakery now simply called "Cupcakes" in an intersection that featured two different Starbucks' on two different corners. They're a small shop, but the feature both classic flavors, as well as some unique designs that I want to see brought over to LA, especially the red velvet marble! They're also the perfect size so I didn't even have to make fun of anyone for cutting their cupcake in half and saving part of it "for later." If you're ever in the area, you have to try their Caramella!

Anyway, we wound up on location with The Secret Circle, hunkering down in a basement to seek solace from the rain while the kids filmed a fun "truth or dare" scene upstairs. Britt Robertson, Thomas Dekker, and Shelley Hennig humored all of our love triangle inquiries, while Phoebe Tonkin also let us watch her work in conditions for which I can only hope she received hazard pay. Let's just say, Vancouver rain has absolutely nothing on movie magic rain!

Our final day in Vancouver was met with mixed reactions for me personally. While I was exhausted and cold most of the time, I was also loving the city, the company, and the unique insight into these shows that are usually just a bit too far out of reach. We hit Fringe once again to try to find out exactly where Peter Bishop was, and we found ourselves in alt-Manhatan (yes, that's how they spell it there) with Anna Torv and Seth Gabel for a stunt sequence involving a charter bus. (Lance Reddick had come to our hotel on a previous evening to sit down with us, while Joshua Jackson...well, he doesn't exist in this new universe yet, remember!? ;) )

"It's not incest if it's in a different universe" was Gabel's pitch for
a tee-shirt slogan for this fourth season of Fringe, and after hearing all about the new relationships and partnerships that are evolving on the show these days, I have to admit it might be perfectly apt. I have to also admit that Fringe is one of those shows that I prep more for when watching and writing because there are so many little nuances to each version of each character, and I am completely in awe of these amazing actors for being able to play the roles so seamlessly, especially without having the complete backstory at the time.

Heading back home was sad for a number of reasons. The four days came and went so quickly! And also, our return flight on Alaska Airlines had no TVs. I honestly felt like *I* was in an alternative universe at that point! But armed with hours of interviews to release to fans, an album of new photos to build in iPhoto, a carry-on stuffed with Smarties and Ritter Sport, a new obsession in crispy mashed potatoes (it's like an eggroll stuffed with potato and sprinkled with cheese and bacon and smothered in sour cream), and a mind racing with new TV shows to mash-up, I eventually made it home. I may have even rescued alt-Madison from "over there" so "real" Madison can have a brother...

Check out the following and be sure to bookmark my LA Examiner page for more:

* travel accommodations provided by Warner Brothers. Extra special thanks to the awesome Jeff and Carol for scheduling everything and wrangling all of us!

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