Where Guillermo del Toro's FX Series The Strain Was Filmed in Toronto
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Where Guillermo del Toro’s FX Series The Strain Was Filmed in Toronto

In this modern vampire tale, a very poorly disguised Toronto becomes a very bloody New York City.

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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Guillermo del Toro has been a godsend to our fine city and its film industry. One of the coolest filmmakers around has turned Toronto into a home base, with him and his production company filming Pacific Rim, Mama, the forthcoming Crimson Peak and The Strain here, for starters. He’s also probably got a bit of an emotional connection to the city, having shot his first Hollywood movie, Mimic, in Toronto.

The Strain is essentially an icky vampire story created by Del Toro, based on books he co-wrote with Chuck Hogan. Despite taking place in New York City, the show does not convincingly disguise its filming location—but that’s okay, because we love when there’s a subtitle telling us where we definitely aren’t.

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So, the plot kicks off when a plane full mostly of dead passengers lands at JFK Airport.

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Not surprisingly, these scenes were actually shot over at Pearson…

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…with the interiors shot not in Terminal 1 or 3…

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…but in an auxiliary annex they use during construction.

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This parking lot is also at Pearson.

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A few key recurring locations are set up in the first episode. One is this “Harlem” pawnshop.

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You can see it a bit wider here. It’s actually The Hole in the Wall, on Dundas West. Amusingly, we just saw the same location used in The Mortal Instruments and noted that the Google Streetview of the location shows the film crew right out on the street there. (Based on the set dressing, it seems to be for The Mortal Instruments, not The Strain, however.)

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Another is the Stoneheart Group tower, which is CGI in the wide shots. But this back room…

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…and the lobby…

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… are rather clearly actually Roy Thomson Hall.

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We also meet our hero, Dr. Eph Goodweather (played by Corey Stoll), coming out of family counselling in this building, which you can see has an Ontario Heritage plaque.

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Looking down the street a bit we can see we’re on Adelaide; that building is the film-friendly headquarters of the Ontario Heritage Trust.

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They don’t have New York Fries in New York City. As you can see, we’re actually on Bloor, near St. George.

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There are a whole bunch of residential locations that are just too tricky for us to pin down with certainty—but the 40 km/h sign back there is at least a clue we’re not really in Queens here.

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Ditto this home in Flatbush, Brooklyn, which has Toronto street signs visible out the window.

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This lovely restaurant balcony…

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…is actually at Toronto’s own Weslodge.

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That fictional rock star goth dude lives (or at least works a lot) in this venue, the Opera House.

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You can see the balcony even better here.

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We don’t see the exterior until a few episodes later, but it’s supposed to be “Vestry Hall” in TriBeCa. It’s actually Massey Hall.

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Oooh, here we are in midtown Manhattan! Except it’s actually Avenue and Bloor. Only a world-class city such as Toronto could have those info pillars—so keep dreaming, New York!

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The headquarters they enter is actually the Gardiner Museum. You can even see the ROM across the street there.

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And this fake subway station is built into the side of the Lillian Massey building next door.

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It turns out Bloor Street can play midtown and lower Manhattan! All you have to do is go around the corner, by the Louis Vuitton shop.

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A little more Bloor in the fifth episode…

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…with this handsome crane shot.

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And because you can’t get enough of Bloor, here’s Bloor Street United Church pretending to be in Queens.

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A couple of episodes feature flashbacks to a Second World War concentration camp.

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Which were actually shot at a location we haven’t seen used before…

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…the lovely but hidden…

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North Toronto Wastewater Plant down in the Don Valley.

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The era-appropriate planes are CGI, alas.

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Here’s a generic “driving in Manhattan” scene, which you can see takes place on University Avenue…

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…complete with what looks like a 501 Queen streetcar out the window.

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This Brooklyn diner is dressed to look all retro…

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…but it’s the little greasy spoon attached to the Opera House.

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Here we’re outside St. Mike’s hospital—note the very obvious Toronto EMS vehicle.

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Shit starts getting real as the infected monster dudes start taking over Manhattan.

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Of course, Burrito Boyz hasn’t actually expanded there yet, and this isn’t New York or Toronto. It’s actually King Street in Hamilton (plus, you know, some special effects).

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It’s hard to tell at first where we’re driving here…

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…but this sign lets us know we’re actually in Etobicoke, on Six Point Road.

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Back near Massey Hall, we have this alleyway, St. Enoch Square, which plays grimy alleys in lots of movies…

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…and we get to see the nearby Eaton Centre too.

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Some good old-fashioned dead body disposal going on here…

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…in the Port Lands. Looks like the cadaver is going into the ship channel near the turning basin, with the Hearn Generating Station and adjacent asphalt plant visible.

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Presumably this is supposed to be Grand Central Terminal…

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…but it’s actually the ever-obvious Union Station.

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Then we go downstairs, and ta-da!

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We thought we’d never get to this familiar haunt! In addition to appearing in just about every NYC movie shot here…

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…Lower Bay Station was a key location in Del Toro’s very first Hollywood film, Mimic.

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Amusingly, the same location is used to play this supposedly different subway station.

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And then, a few episodes later, yet another station! Del Toro’s peeps really love Lower Bay, man.

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With all that subway-station time, it’s only fair we finally get on an actual TTC train.

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This is a darned cool location. It’s the retro looking Gold Star gas station.

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Except it doesn’t actually exist.

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Supposedly out in Brooklyn, it was built for the show Lucky 7 and then re-used for The Strain

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…and its brief existence took place right here, on Eastern Avenue.

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We spend lots of time in “Brooklyn,” including this bit out on Weston Road

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…and you can see a bit of the Pizza Pizza across the street in the reflection, eh.

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There’s also this “Flatbush” bit, complete with a CIBC; it’s really this entrance to St. Andrew station…

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…which you see in reverse here.

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This van crash…

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…is down under the Gardiner.

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In the 10th episode we have an extended bit with Corey Stoll’s character in which he drives along this street with streetcar tracks…

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…gives a little love to the Green P…

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…then starts walking along what is actually McCaul Street.

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He then talks to this homeless lady…

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…at McCaul and Darcy

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…and then walks with her to Beatty Avenue, which is not actually anywhere nearby.

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This garage is supposed to be out in Queens…

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…but you can see it’s actually Peter’s Garage, near Spadina and College.

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Most of the show takes place in present-day New York City, but we like a little versatility, like in those earlier concentration camp scenes. This time we’re supposed to be in Albania—but it’s most definitely actually Black Creek Pioneer Village. (Season 3 of Hannibal is also going to shoot Toronto-as-Europe, so we’re looking forward to seeing how that goes.)

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It’s hard to tell where this rooftop scene is, but you can at least tell that’s our skyline and not Manhattan’s.

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But this scene out in the Port Lands features a fake New York skyline.

So, they covered a lot of ground over the first season of The Strain, but they’ve already announced they’re coming back for a second season soon—so we’ll see how much more fake New York there is to see!

UPDATE: November 14, 2014, 2:30 PM As an anonymous tipster has pointed out, the unidentified residential location (the shot after New York Fries) in this week’s article is on Durie Street.