This year’s batch of Emmy-nominated series is rich with visually arresting locations that subtly buttress dramatic themes and flesh out the lives of its leading men, from the Altadena Craftsman that serves as the home of grieving therapist Jimmy (Jason Segal) in Apple TV+’s “Shrinking” to the California prisons (the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi and the Stark Youth Training Facility in Chino) that house Bill Hader’s title character in HBO’s “Barry” to the downtown L.A. high rise where covert-agent-on-the-lam Dan Chase (Jeff Bridges) lives when he’s posing as a wealthy investor in FX’s “The Old Man.”
And, it turns out, choosing a location is not dissimilar to casting an actor, with looks, price, and personality all factoring into the decision.
For the fourth and final season of HBO’s “Succession,” the production traveled from its New York City base in search of a locale to stage a confab between the Roy siblings and Swedish tech mogul Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) that was appropriately majestic, intimidating and exotic. They settled on Norway, where they shot on Atlantic Ocean Road (featured in the 2021 Bond film “No Time to Die”), the Romsdalen Gondola (used in the show) and, most significant, the Juvet Landscape Hotel (previously seen in the 2014 sci-fi drama “Ex Machina”), whose sales tagline is “leave the world behind.”
Designed by Norwegian architectural firm Jensen & Skodvin, the Juvet features a collection of wood and glass cabins with spectacular views of the surrounding forest and lake.
“The hotel is very tiny, so they had to move bookings and it was a huge challenge, but people understood the quality of the show ‘Succession’ and the brand, so there was a willingness to achieve this,” says Per-Henry Borch, executive producer with Truenorth Norway, the production services company that coordinated the shoot.
On Hulu’s “Welcome to Chippendales,” the production had the slightly more dingy and down-market task of re-creating Los Angeles of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
The show’s hero location was the Chippendales nightclub, where Somen “Steve” Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani) pioneered the concept of all-male strip shows for female audiences. The club’s real-life location on Overland Avenue in Culver City, now a senior care facility, was deemed unfeasible, so they wound up using PlanB, a gentleman’s club three miles away on West Pico Boulevard to stand in as the original’s beige stucco exterior.
“It wasn’t just the building we liked, it was also everything surrounding it, because the [series’] scenes have a lot of drive-ups and long lines out the door,” says location manager Derek Alvarado.
As good as the location was, they still had to do a lot of additional work to take the neighborhood back in time, shutting down surrounding blocks and doing everything from replacing parking meters, removing street signs and painting out bicycle lanes to buying out businesses for the day so they could alter their signage and park picture cars in front of them.
Another key locale was discovered almost accidentally. Producers wanted the gaudy ’80s-style mansion occupied by Banejree and his wife (played by Annaleigh Ashford) to be located close to the soundstages
in Chatsworth, where they were shooting the series’ interiors, so they scoured a nearby gated community in search of potential homes.
“We were actually scouting a house across the street, and we drive by this other house, and we’re like, ‘That house looks very weird and interesting,’” recalls Alvarado.
When they peered over the fence and saw the house, with its stately Doric columns flanked by lion sculptures and an exterior spiral staircase, complemented by an enormous water fountain topped by a trident-wielding Neptune statue at the center of its circular driveway, they knew they’d found their mansion.
“Welcome to Chippendales” also had scenes set in London, Switzerland and India, but all shot in or around Los Angeles. For India, they shut down an entire street in East L.A. and brought in animals, carts and vintage trucks to create a period-correct facsimile of Banerjee’s homeland.
For a tense dinner between Paul Snider (Dan Stevens) and Dorothy Stratten (Nicola Peltz Beckham), the production took the rooftop restaurant at the Beverly Hilton Hotel back in time to when it was L’Escoffier, which opened in 1955 and closed in the mid-1990s.
“That was one of my favorite locations, because I felt like we brought back something that existed at that time and then disappeared for decades,” says supervising location manager Eric Fierstein.
“It worked out perfectly that the Beverly Hilton still has that vintage vibe,” adds Alvarado. “We shot the valet and lobby there as well, and only had to bring in picture cars to really sell the time period.”
Locations can provide surprises, and not always good ones. On “Welcome to Chippendales,” the production took an alley in downtown L.A. and turned it into a Soho neighborhood in London, but were forced to vacate the location, leaving production designer Richard Bloom to re-create the re-creation on Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Santa Clarita. Mother Nature provided the “Succession” crew with a big surprise in the form of heavy rains, but the bad weather subsided after a few days. The crew of Paramount+ series “Tulsa King” was not so lucky. In one recent interview, showrunner Terence Winter noted that when they arrived in Oklahoma City for the shoot, the weather quickly went from freezing cold to around 100 degrees — and it stayed that way for five months.
Productions aren’t just in search of looks. They also want a deal. After years of losing film and TV shoots to foreign and domestic regions offering generous incentives, California sweetened its tax credit in 2015 to make it competitive, offering 35% for features and 40% for TV series. “Succession” was able to take advantage of a 25% cash rebate on qualified production expenses in Norway, the same percentage it received in tax credits from New York.
There are other important elements to consider that can’t be illustrated by a scouting photo or a spreadsheet.
“Obviously, film is a business, and Norway is a highly modern society that scores high in a range of factors, like stability, reliability and transparency,” says Meghan Beaton, head of the Norwegian Film Commission. “One thing that productions really love is that we are near-cashless. Also, we have 50 airports, so places like you see in ‘Succession’ are well-serviced, and we have a very high level of English-language proficiency, both with our crew and society in general.”
Similarly, the locations enjoy the residual effects of being featured in a high-profile TV show that are not easily measured, like an uptick in tourism.
Before the premiere of their “Succession” episode, the Juvet upgraded the capacity of its website in anticipation of the increased traffic it would bring, and they were wise to do so: they quickly found themselves booked solid through the end of September.
“Now, we’re almost fully booked for October and we’ve also seen a rise in requests from America and companies that want to have meetings and conferences here,” says Kristina Slinning, the Juvet’s general manager. “It’s kind of becoming like a bucket-list hotel.”
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