Where American Gods was filmed in Toronto

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Where American Gods was filmed in Toronto

Neil Gaiman's epic clash between the new gods with the old for the soul of America comes to life, mostly in and around Toronto.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

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We enjoy watching Suits make its way around the financial district, and The Handmaid’s Tale was a great way to show the city’s dystopian, quasi-American side (as well as a place where free health care is doled out to refugees like ketchup potato chips), but American Gods really gives the city’s visual palette a workout.

It’s not surprising given that the series, based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, was driven in large part by Bryan Fuller (in tandem with red hot writer Michael Green), whose prior Wonderfalls and then Hannibal produced some of the most remarkable visuals ever seen on TV (David Lynch notwithstanding). Indeed, Hannibal had perhaps the craziest sex scene ever to air on network TV and American Gods does it better. TWICE. It’s awfully ambitious and ofttimes a bit too sprawling, but it’s still something to see.

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One of the things that makes American Gods‘ near-exclusive use of local locales so impressive is the geographic and epochal scope.

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The series opens, for example, with an amazing little bit of ultraviolence, recalling the first Vikings to set foot on North American shores. This amazing little set-piece was shot over at the Scarborough Bluffs…

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…which Fuller and co. also used to stage one of Hannibal‘s many memorable death tableaux.

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Now, not every single frame was shot in and around Toronto. Our penitentiaries, for example, apparently don’t have quite the right look…

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…and this one, the one they call “Big Mac,” is in Oklahoma, where the story is actually set at this point.

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We then go into the actual Oklahoma town…

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…of Ponca City.

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We see both Shadow’s wedding to Laura, and her funeral at this church, the interior of which is midtown’s Dewi Sant Welsh United.

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But the exterior is in a different United Church, in Orono.

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Shadow’s old house is nearby, also in Orono.

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Lots of times, movies stage airports at locations like the Ex’s Enercare Centre

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…but this is actually Pearson’s terminal one, where we meet Ian McShane’s Mr. Wednesday…

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…which is photogenic in is own right.

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Mixing and matching a bit, this streetscape is actually in Fairfax, Virgina

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…but when our hero, Shadow Moon, goes shopping…

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Gosh darn if he isn’t suddenly in a Canadian Tire.

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Amusingly, this one sells vodka, albeit with those distinctive price labels. You may have noticed all those Canadian Tires kinda look (and smell) the same, but this is the outlet at Eglinton and Warden.

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This diner, also supposedly in Fairfax…

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…is merely our own George Street Diner.

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American Gods is, if one were attempting to pin down a genre, a “road movie,” though, a few bits like that aside, it was all shot around here.

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A road movie has to have motels, for example…

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…and this one is right here in town, Kingston Road’s New Plaza Motel. It looks nice at night too.

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This is a few episodes later, but despite the gorgeously retro Starbrite arch there…

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…this is really merely the cleverly named 400 Motel, just off, um, Highway 400, in Cookstown.

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Hey it’s a cameo by by Hannibal alum Scott Thompson!

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They also shot plenty of studio stuff, like this FX-heavy opening…

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…of the third episode at Cinespace. Looks less impressive in real life.

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Similarly, this is definitely not the real sky…

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…but it still looks an awful lot like the roof of the Royal York.

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We also visit Chicago…

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…but it’s actually Hamilton.

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This is Main Street, at James.

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And we spend a little time in this print shop…

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…right nearby, on Hughson Street.

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Random trivia: Many productions use fake names so people won’t bug them too much, and American Gods‘ production title was the endearing sounding “Mr. Chocolates.” But the signs didn’t really fool anyone, when the production moved to Guelph.

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These scenes are on Wyndham Street

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…and then Shadow and his new pal, Mr. Wednesday, go to rob this bank…

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…played by the historic Dominion Public Building.

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Closer to home, this restaurant fooled us for a bit…

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…but the distinctive windows mark it as North York’s landmark Sea-Hi Chinese Restaurant.

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Speaking of Yorks…

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…these “New York City” street scenes are also Hamilton…

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…but this hotel is in Toronto, on Lombard.

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This faux-Egyptian-themed casino…

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…was filmed up at an event space in Vaughan (plus some special effects that replace the unlikely chateau with an equally unlikely pyramid).

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American Gods also happens to share a number of locations (and even episode directors!) with The Handmaid’s Tale which, coincidentally or not, aired on the same night this spring. When Wednesday and Shadow go to meet potential ally Vulcan in Virginia, for example…

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They’re in a mix of historic Galt, with some Brantford (and some special effects additions)…

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The Central Presbyterian Church is right across the Main Street bridge where The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Episode-3 protest was staged.

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Kinda funny that The Handmaid’s Tale showed a religious patriarchy gone wild and here we’ve got gun nuts, basically trading one right-wing American dystopia for another, all in fair Cambridge.

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It looks like Vulcan forges his weapons down at the old Hearn site…

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…but he lives in Hamilton’s Scottish Rite

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…which appeared in the last couple of Handmaid‘s episodes as well. (And Fuller used it as the Dolarhyde Mansion in the final season of Hannibal.)

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It’s handsome interiors were used as well.

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This is one of those blink-and-you’ll miss it things, but Sonja Smits has a wordless cameo in a flashback scene.

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Speaking of flashbacks, Episode 8 tells some of the backstory of Bilquis.

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This club scene is supposed to be in Tehran (!), in 1979 but it’s really just Cube.

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The final episode entails an extensive visit to the abode of the goddess, Easter.

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This place is so darned pretty you might think it’s a set or at least substantially enhanced, but it was entirely shot at a prominent family’s estate out in Caledon.

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At one point, it was listed as the highest-priced piece of real estate in the entire country…

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…and the shoot definitely took advantage of its interior and exterior sites…

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…but we never get invited there for tea parties.

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And from there we head to Wisconsin as the season ends. If the local media are to be believed, this was shot rather closer to Mono Cliffs than America’s Dairyland.

So we said American Gods was something to see and indeed it was, if you somehow figured out how to watch it on Amazon Prime, here in the country where the darned thing was shot. They’re already moving forward on Season 2, so hopefully by the time it airs it will be a little easier for us to watch since we’re helping out and everything.

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