(McGyver enjoying a refreshing strawberry cone as he strolls past the Steamclock in the show’s opening credits).
It’s hard to deny that Hollywood has an ongoing love affair with Gastown. Walk through the neighbourhood on any given day and there’s a very good chance of encountering a film set covering a few blocks, or tucked away in a laneway. Gastown is one of the top locations in Canada for the Film & TV industry, and iconic landmarks like the steam clock, our historic buildings, and unmistakable globe lights have appeared in hundreds of movies and shows. For those of us who know the neighbourhood, it’s always fun to settle in for the night with a favourite tv show and at some point in the episode yell out: “Hey I know that place, it’s Gastown!”
Ever since 21 Jump Street with its feathered hair, teen idol police force kicking ass and taking names in the gritty Gastown laneways, and busting dirtbags along the foggy underbelly of Water Street in the dark of night, has our beloved little neighbourhood found its way onto small screens around the world.
(Gassy Jack had a cameo in this scene from 21 Jump Street; he’s behind the mullet haired guy on the left).
Here are a few of the TV shows that have shot in Gastown over the years, with some still in production. Whether it’s meant to look like present day Seattle, the USA in the 1890’s, or some other strange place from another dimension, to us, it’s always Gastown – our forever little new-old place by the sea.
The Man In The High Castle
Produced for Amazon Prime, The Man In The High Castle is based on a novel by Phillip K Dick. Set in post WWII America, the show presents a dystopian world where Germany and Japan have in fact, won the war, and set about firmly establishing oppressive facist rule with the United States divided into three parts; an area controlled by the Japanese, a Nazi-controlled section, and a buffer zone between the two. Fueled by an impressive budget (we’re talking Bezos’ wealth here), the show can be regularly seen shooting in Gastown with previous sets on Columbia, Cambie and in many of the laneways. Witnessing the transformation of present day Gastown into a socio-politically backward 1960’s USA marred by control and domination is a sight to behold.
Based in part on a popular Danish TV series, `The Killing’ is a moody, character-driven detective procedural that weaves a murder mystery through a full season or more. The stories unfold through the eyes of Sarah Linden, a dedicated detective with the Seattle Police Department who at first is assigned to mentor Detective Stephen Holder, formerly of the narcotics division. With a lot of locations and scenes shot in Gastown, The Killing is a great show and the almost constant rain (heavy at times, creates a fitting melancholy backdrop to both the dark and moody action, and the main character arcs.
Seen ‘streaking’ along Abbott Street and West Cordova, The Flash races throughout the neighbourhood on a fairy regular basis. At 11, Barry Allen’s life changed completely when his mother died in a freak accident and his innocent father was convicted of her murder. Orphaned Barry later becomes Detective Joe West. Now a crime-scene investigator, his dedication to learn the truth about his mother’s death drives him to follow up on every new scientific advancement and urban legend. When his latest obsession – a particle accelerator heralded as a world-changing invention – causes an explosion, it creates a freak storm and Barry is struck by lightning. He awakes from a coma nine months later with the power of superspeed. When he learns that others who have gained powers use them for evil, he dedicates himself to protecting the innocent, while still trying to solve the older mystery.
Hundreds of years in the future, the last surviving humans discover a way of sending consciousness back through time, directly into people in the 21st century — “travelers,” who assume the lives of seemingly random people. They’re also secretly working as teams to perform missions in order to save humanity from a terrible future. Armed only with their knowledge of history and an archive of social media profiles, the travelers — who include an FBI agent, a single mother and a college student — discover that 21st-century relationships are as much of a challenge as their high-stakes missions. The show has shot in many Gastown locations including Brian Adams’ studio at 100 Powell Street.
After the death of her husband, Norma Bates buys a motel in the picturesque coastal town of White Pine Bay, giving herself and teenage son Norman a chance to begin anew. Shy Norman is reluctant at first, but with the help of his mother — with whom he shares an intensely close relationship — the boy begins to open up to others and make new friends. Some locals, however, aren’t as friendly and welcoming to the Bates, who discover that because White Pine Bay isn’t as peaceful as it appears, they are forced to do whatever it takes to survive. Locations have included Water Street and Abbott Street.
Detective Raimy Sullivan has carried around pain and resentment over her father’s death for 20 years, believing NYPD Officer Frank Sullivan was corrupted during an undercover sting and got himself killed. Everything changes when she hears his voice coming from his old ham radio, somehow transmitting from 1996. Raimy tells Frank about his murder, allowing him to survive the event, but the change has tragic consequences on the present, and the two detectives must find a way to rewrite the past without destroying everyone they care about. The above scene was shot in the empty lot space in the laneway from Homer to Cambie, between Hastings and West Cordova.
As one of the longest running TV shows shot in Vancouver (still in production), Supernatural follows the thrilling yet terrifying journeys of Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who face an increasingly sinister landscape as they hunt monsters. After losing their mother to a supernatural force, the brothers were raised by their father as soldiers who track mysterious and demonic creatures. Violent memories and relationship-threatening secrets add additional burdens on Sam and Dean as they investigate all things that go bump in the night. As old tricks and tools are rendered useless and friends betray them, the brothers must rely on each other as they encounter new enemies. In a fairly rare occurrence, the show went on the road for two days and nights shooting in Gastown at The Blarney Stone, Maple Tree Square and Alexander Street.
Once Upon A Time
“Once Upon a Time” tells the story of a new world, one in which fairy-tale legends and modern life collide. Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) is comfortable in her life as a bail bonds collector when Henry — the child she gave up a decade earlier — suddenly shows up. He is convinced that she is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, who sent her away before the Evil Queen could cast a spell, freezing the fairytale world in time and bringing them to present-day Storybrooke, Maine. After taking Henry home, Emma decides to stay in the town to keep an eye on him, and she discovers he may not be wrong after all. If it’s not Seattle, Gastown is often turned into New York City’s Soho district, as seen in the episode starring Jared Gilmore & Robert Carlyle.
When presumed-dead billionaire playboy Oliver Queen returns home to Starling City after five years stranded on a remote island in the Pacific, he hides the changes the experience had on him, while secretly seeking reconciliation with his ex, Laurel. By day he picks up where he left off, playing the carefree philanderer he used to be, but at night he dons the alter ego of Arrow and works to right the wrongs of his family and restore the city to its former glory. Complicating his mission is Laurel’s father, Detective Quentin Lance, who is determined to put the vigilante behind bars. For Season 1 episode 18, Arrow closed the 200 block of Abbott Street to film a motorcycle weaving in and out of traffic.
FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham is assigned to the bureau’s Fringe Division, in which she investigates unusual crimes and occurrences. Assisting Olivia in her investigations are once-institutionalised scientist Dr Walter Bishop, his jack-of-all-trades son, Peter, and FBI Junior Agent Astrid Farnsworth. As the team investigates cases of science gone awry, they discover connections to their own past and to a parallel universe. As the team explores life and solves cases in these interconnected worlds, new discoveries and complications continue to arise. For the 11th episode of the final season, Fringe closed the 200 block of Columbia Street to create a checkpoint for the Fringe team — Peter, Olivia, Walter and the child Observer, to avoid capture. The day’s filming started early in the alley east of Columbia St. which was decorated with resistance posters.