Reel Toronto: The State Within
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Reel Toronto: The State Within

The BBC uses Toronto to play Washington D.C., and shows it's possible to make a blockbuster mini-series in town.

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.

2013 06 04 statewithin

Last time out, we looked at a superior TV series (and one that was just renewed!). But Toronto has also hosted plenty of mini-series and movies of the week. Few of them have been as ambitious as 2006’s BBC production, The State Within.

The State Within is sort of a more tightly scripted, Britishy version of 24. It’s shot all hand-held with whippy cameras and split-second shots that make our job that much more difficult, especially since the series is six hours long. The show stars Jason Isaacs, a fine actor, who, like most British actors of his generation, will probably be best known for his work in the Harry Potter films. He plays a British Ambassdor to the U.S.A., who gets embroiled in a big, huge conspiracy—and that means Toronto gets to play not only Washington D.C., but also parts of London and Florida.

2013 06 04ep4 backatpearson

Just like 24, The State Within starts off with an audacious terrorist attack on an airplane. Things start innocuously enough at Pearson Airport, which we visit a few times during the series…

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…and you can even see a map of Terminal 1 here.

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Then they get in the car and drive onto what is rather obviously not the Washington Beltway…

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…and then things really go south. It’s hardly surprising that staging this on a local road, right near the actual airport, attracted some attention and freaked some people out. This impressive setup was actually on Goreway Drive, near Woodbine Racetrack.

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After the attack, the bodies are laid out at Varsity Arena.

2013 06 04openingcredits notDC

As mentioned above, there’s lots of split-second shots and also very tightly-framed shots that zip around, making it difficult to see where we are. This, for example, is during the opening credits, and while we have no idea where it is, we’re gonna go out on a limb and say it’s in Toronto. (The pillars suggest Metro Hall, which we’ll see later.)

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Here are cop cars zipping down University Avenue, by what looks like the Osgoode subway stop.

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This is a bit easier to ID: it’s the Frost Building, on Queen’s Park Circle.

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Another episode’s opening credits shows this guy coming out of the door of St. Andrew’s Church, on Simcoe…

2013 06 04exit elephantcastle

…and while Roy Thomson Hall is kept off-camera, you can see the Elephant and Castle pub across the street here. That means he’s standing right in front of Hannibal Lecter’s office, which, hey, cool!

2013 06 04dcunionstation tricky

The show’s herky-jerky aesthetic means there aren’t many big establishing shots, but this one is of Washington D.C.’s very-distinctive Union Station.

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But then we cut down and it’s clearly our Union Station. Theirs doesn’t have limestone pillars…

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…the Skywalk…

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…or GO trains.

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The show uses our local institutions to portray important Washington buildings. Don’t believe the type! The “Pentagon” is actually Macdonald Block, a Queen’s Park building that we’ve seen used as a generic government building in films as diverse as The Recruit and Last Night.

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And, despite the caption, this isn’t the Senate.

2013 06 04oldcityhall lobby

As you can see here, it’s actually Old City Hall.

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This press conference was shot at Metro Hall, and when the Secret Service rushes in…

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…they come down Mercer Street.

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When the British Ambassador drives to his residence…

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…he arrives at Osgoode Hall.

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But the interiors, including this party room…

2013 06 04parkwood int

…this hallway…

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…this dining room…

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…and these stairs, are actually at the mansion that’s served as everything from the X-Mansion to Billy Madison‘s home, Oshawa’s Parkwood Estate.

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Just as a bit of a break from the locations, you should know that some local actors also get some major facetime, including Aaron Abrams (who is also on Hannibal)…

2013 06 04annieedison

…and Marnie McPhail, who was the original Annie Edison long before Community had its own Annie Edison. (We’ll pause a second so you can hum the theme song to The Edison Twins.)

2013 06 04villers 4sure

Where were we? Well, yeah, there’s all sorts of spy shenanigans going on, so you get clandestine meetings, like this one, on Villiers Street

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…and this one, also in the Port Lands, with the Toronto Star building in the background.

2013 06 04downtown mailboxes

Speaking of backgrounds, we mentioned there’s a lot of tightly framed downtown shots that are a bit tougher to spot, like this argument scene…

2013 06 04tampabetter

…this TTC stop, which is supposed to be in Tampa (the lens they used really throws off perspective but it looks like it’s maybe on Bay, near Bloor?…

2013 06 04downtown alley

…and this financial district alleyway.

2013 06 04highparkasrockycreek

This park is supposed to be D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, but it’s actually High Park…

2013 06 04hihgparkplayground 2

…as you can see when there’s an assassination at the since-burned-down (and subsequently rebuilt) playground.

2013 06 04royalyorklobby

This fancy shmancy hotel lobby, of course, belongs to the Royal York…

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…and this scene is just outside.

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So is this one, complete with a Casey’s visible at the edge of the frame.

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Some of the other more familiar locations include the now-defunct Canary Restaurant…

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…and hospital scenes, like this, which used the city’s go-to location for hospital shoots, Humber River Regional.

CORRECTION: June 4, 10:40AM This post previously referred to D.C.’s Rock Creek Park as Rocky Creek Park. The correction has been made above.