Reel Toronto: Orphan Black
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Reel Toronto: Orphan Black

Orphan Black, BBC America's cult sci-fi series, is shot (and maybe even set) in 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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Toronto used to be home to myriad low-rent TV productions and the odd quality Canadian series, like the Degrassi franchise. But, as we’ve discovered, we’re increasingly hosting bona fide, top-notch productions, the latest and greatest of which may be Orphan Black.

With just one season under its belt, the co-production between our own Temple Street Productions and BBC America has become a full-on cult hit. Though the slightly-in-the-future setting creates a bit of ambiguity about just where it’s taking place, other times the obviousness of Toronto comes through clearly.

Just two caveats before we get into our extensive-but-perhaps-not-comprehensive look at the plethora of local sites Orphan Black has already used. 1) Unlike most of the movies we look at, Orphan Black is at 10 hours and counting and its plot involves clones, so hopefully die-hards will be gentle and understand that we can’t tackle the whole series in one go. 2) We also have to give credit to this site, which we came across in our research. It confirmed some things we thought we were oh-so-clever to have figured out on our own and helped us discover some others. Huzzah! On to Orphan Black.

Wow, so where to begin. We live in an era where a solid niche program can be just as successful and important (if not moreso) than a show that happens to attract big ratings. Hearts broke all across the Twitterverse when Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany failed to get an Emmy nomination the other week for her performance as—is it seven different clones? Describing the plot after such a cursory viewing will probably confuse all of us, so let’s just steal the easy-to-understand summary from Wikipedia, shall we?

After witnessing a woman’s suicide, Sarah assumes the stranger’s identity—who happens to look just like her. Expecting to solve all her problems by cleaning out the dead woman’s savings, Sarah is instead thrust headlong into a kaleidoscopic mystery as she realizes the dizzying truth: she and the dead woman are clones.

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Riiiiight. So, the very opening shot is this, showing the skyline and a train entering Union Station, and the CN Tower is not exactly hidden.

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Indeed, the first scene shows Maslany, rather obviously down by the tracks there…

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…alongside a repainted (digitally or otherwise) GO train.

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Other suggestions this may just be Toronto include this birth certificate (it remains unclear if alternate-universe Scarberia has subways)…

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…and this skyline shot.

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Oh, and the CN Tower again. And yet, the train station is called Huxley Station (especially odd since Union is a great generic name). On the other hand, a local TV station is branded CNTO and the cars have Ontario plates, so are we in Toronto or not?

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They’re really not too shy about the skyline, actually. Here it is from the Gardiner, for example.

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We also start getting introduced to several key locations. Sarah, or rather Elizabeth, lives in this modern house…

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…on this street, in Concord Cityplace, which is actually Mariner Terrace.

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You can even see the Rogers Centre in the back of this shot.

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Sarah spends a lot of time hanging out with Felix, who lives in this loft, the interior of which is just a set.

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The exterior entrance, however, is McDougall Lane, near Spadina Avenue and Queen Street….

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…and the street view is also right there, on Queen Street West, at 483.

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Sarah also watches her own funeral (long story) from out by the Hearn generating station

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…which you can see a bit wider here. That would make the funeral site just at the bottom of Tommy Thompson Park.

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In the second episode, we meet a clone who lives out in suburbia, but it’s not actually Scarborough.

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A tip-off that we’re in Markham comes from this Major Mackenzie Drive sign.

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We then cruise around this handsome subdivision, which is actually the new-urbanist-ish Angus Glen neighbourhood. Unlike old-school suburbia, they try to hide the garages in laneways like this one.

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Then we drive down this street

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…to get to her house, which is actually this one, one Harper Hill Road.

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A fair amount of time is spent up in this area, and we also visit the nearby Angus Glen Community Centre

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…which we see, both outside…

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…and in.

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Also up in Markham is this “Spy Guys” store…

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…and adjacent Main Drug Mart, on Highway 7, at Woodbine.

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Another location to which we often return, back in the Big Smoke, is this police station. You can tell, what with the Richmond Street Don Valley overpass lurking in the back, that it’s actually this rather innocent-looking building out on King Street East.

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You can see it a bit better here.

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At one point, Maslany walks past…

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…and into the lobby of this chic joint, actually the Thompson Hotel.

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She has a clandestine nighttime meeting on the rooftop of what looks like it’s probably this parking lot, baesd on the view of the ACC in the background.

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This is only the second time we’ve come across something shot on Howard Street, where Elliot Gould has his apartment in The Silent Partner. But it’s here, and it’s the setting for a big chase scene…

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…that goes past these buildings…

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…and the local laundromat.

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Oh, lookie! Another pretty skyline shot.

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In Episode 4, the cops hang out here…

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…on Bright Street.

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This familiar streetscape is on Spadina, outside the Waverly Hotel.

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There’s a bit of a chase here too, and we see the alleyway that runs behind the hotel and The Silver Dollar…

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…not to mention what appears, maybe, to be Dundas Street (at Spadina Avenue).

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Here we are, over on the east side of town, outside the Morse Street Public School.

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You can actually see these Queen Street East storefronts in the background of this shot from the same scene.

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We return to this area later in the series for this car accident, which takes place right outside the Mercury Espresso Bar, on Queen Street.

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Alas, we don’t have the Canary around anymore, but this homey diner is Jim’s Restaurant, also out on Queen Street.

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Here’s the interior.

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Rather more upscale, this is the Rosewater Supper Club.

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And back downscale a bit, a bar scene at the Cameron House.

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A little bit of set dressing makes this look like some old, run-down building, but it’s the perfectly lovely Knox College, at U of T.

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Also on campus is this lovely house, which is apparently supposed to be way over in Minneapolis.

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Just a few steps away is St. Michael’s College.

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And here’s Cossima at the nearby Kelly Library.

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This downtown shot is framed to make things look foreboding, but it’s just Yonge Street, looking south from about Colborne Street.

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This hospital exterior is actually the Michener Institute, just a bit north of OCADU and the AGO, on McCaul Street.

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This office looks all futuristic, but if that building with the LED lights out the window looks familiar, it’s because it’s on Yonge Street. This shot seems to be looking east from up in Bay-Adelaide Centre…

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…the lobby of which we also visit.

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We started by showing Union Station, so it’s a teeny bit of symmetry to end with the bus terminal. Oh, good! The Megabus still runs in the future! Even alternate universe Torontonians deserve a chance to party for cheap in Montreal, right?

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Hey, it’s Canadian Matt “Max Headroom” Frewer. Cool! And he’s at Dundas and Elizabeth Streets!

Okay, well, phew. We know we missed some other locations, but season two is coming soon, so we may be back one day. If you like spotting Toronto locations and don’t shy away from something with a little sci-fi, you might wanna tune in. It’s not too late.

CORRECTION: August 7, 2013, 12:55 PM This post originally misidentified a piece of elevated roadway as the Gardiner Expressway. In fact, the pictured structure is the Don Valley overpass at Richmond Street.

UPDATE: OCTOBER 5, 2013: Thanks to commenters for pointing out we’d negelected to include scenes shot at the Kelly Library and Cameron House. Both have now been added to the main article.