Why ‘The Bear,’ ‘Barry’ and ‘Jury Duty’ Struggled to Find the Perfect Filming Locations (2023)

“Locations is like working in an escape room. You have a riddle or problem that you have to solve and a limited amount of time to do it. But you always figure out a way out,” says Jonathan Jansen, supervising location manager of HBO’s “Barry.”

Finding the right locations can require a lot of leg work, but some locations are obvious from the start.

FX on Hulu’s “The Bear” revolves around a fictional restaurant, the Beef, based on Chicago’s iconic no-frills eatery, Mr. Beef, making that the only logical setting.

Mr. Beef on Orleans is a key part of [local] history, but also the exterior of the show. For people in Chicago, it’s a real touch point. Even as River North is changing, it’s still there,” says Tyson Bidner, producer, “The Bear,” who worked closely with location manager Maria C. Roxas to find sites worthy of series creator and showrunner Christopher Storer’s specific vision.

Exterior and interior scenes were shot at Mr. Beef, including front-of-house and public areas, but after the show was picked up, interiors were re-created at Cinespace Chicago.

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Since the final season of HBO’s “Barry” began with two characters — Barry (Bill Hader) and Fuches (Stephen Root) — in prison, Jansen needed a prison.

“Because of the amount of work we wanted to do there, finding a facility that was willing to allow us to do it was challenging,” Jansen says. Prison exteriors and wide-angle interiors were shot at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.

“The folks at California corrections were fans the show, which helped, and they were really interested in making it work. It was a logistical challenge trying to get in there, because for most of it we were working in an active prison,” Jansen adds, noting this was one occasion when COVID restrictions benefitted production. “Luckily, two units in each area were vacant, because they were COVID overflow containment units, so we were able to get access to facilities that would normally be closed.”

Security proved tricky, too. Approximately 350 cast and crew members underwent background checks, vehicles were checked, equipment was inventoried and no wi-fi enabled devices were allow on the premises.

For Amazon Freevee’s “Jury Duty” — a faux trial documentary where everyone but the central character, non-actor Ronald Gladden, knows the proceedings are not real — securing a fully functional courthouse proved fairly straightforward for location manager Tara Jean O’Brien (a SAG member unable to comment due to the strike), since consolidation and cutbacks caused the closure of multiple California courthouses. More difficult was finding a place for the unsuspecting Gladden — and the in-on-the-plot cast — to live for three weeks while the jury were “sequestered.”

“The hotel was a real conundrum, because control was the most important production element of our entire show,” says executive producer Nick Hatton, explaining that using a real hotel could derail the entire production if the friendly Gladden struck up a conversation with a fellow patron. “Ronald good-naturedly might say, ‘We’re part of a sequestered jury. We can’t really talk about it.’ And then the patron might go, ‘Oh, I’m a lawyer. That’s weird. There aren’t many sequestered juries these days.’”

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Plans to convert a former Beverly Hills nursing home into a hotel fell through about a week before filming began.

“The Beverly Hills Fire Department said, ‘Sorry. There’s a red flag, you can’t shoot here.’” O’Brien asked what the red flag was. “They said we’d have to take it up with the district attorney’s office.” Apparently, there were ongoing investigations involving that facility.

“To pivot in those last seven days to find another location that works even better, and to be able to go through all the signoffs —liability, insurance, all that very important stuff — was truly amazing,” Hatton says. O’Brien and her team found the shuttered Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel in Studio City, which during COVID had sheltered the unhoused.

“We decided to actually use that to our benefit,” Hatton says. Gladden was told the hotel was just beginning to get back on its feet after the pandemic. “And kind of as a test case, they’re taking in our small ragtag band of jurors. So he knew that things weren’t going to be completely functional.”

Because functionality was equally vital to the kitchens of “The Bear,” Roxas found a vacant higher-end restaurant to double as the Beef’s kitchen.

“It felt like they left in the middle of the night, because everything was there, and everything worked. The gas was still on, it was a perfect setup,” Bidner says. “We shot the pilot in that kitchen, and when we got picked up we built [a replica] at Cinespace.” Larger than the actual kitchen the real Mr. Beef, the set retained the same footprint of the kitchen from the pilot, to maintain the slightly claustrophobic intensity of a working kitchen.

Another location of “The Bear” with intentionally tight quarters? The apartment of Carmy (played by Jeremy Allen White).

“On a lot of shows Carmy’s apartment would be a build, because it’s almost too small to shoot in, but it works for the character,” Bidner says of the Wicker Park apartment located above a laundromat. “We even went back to it in Season 2. It has to feel real, because that will show on the screen.”

Occasionally, funny things happen on the way to a scouting location, too.

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Why ‘The Bear,’ ‘Barry’ and ‘Jury Duty’ Struggled to Find the Perfect Filming Locations (1)

“Barry’s” Jansen sent multiple scouts to Oklahoma and Nebraska to find multiple locations, including the house of Sally (Sarah Goldberg) and Barry in the middle of nowhere. A month or so later and the right site hadn’t been found.

“Then, on one of our scouting trips here in L.A. we were driving out to Tehachapi to look at the prison. We were in the van, seeing Lancaster and Palmdale and how flat and kind of dried out it was, and thought maybe we should look out here,” Jansen says. “We decided to find the landscape we want, then bring in a mobile home, and set it up and shoot out there. That’s what we ended up doing.”

A T-shirt factory was pivotal to the fake case on “Jury Duty,” and when location managers found a real T-shirt factory in downtown L.A., they also helped cast a role.

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“Jean-Paul Cantona is the actual owner of that factory,” Hatton says. “When he was walking us around and showing us how the stuff actually works, we realized he should be the guy who takes the jurors around and explains any questions they have about the basic functionality of the presses.”

Why ‘The Bear,’ ‘Barry’ and ‘Jury Duty’ Struggled to Find the Perfect Filming Locations (2)

Every now and the right location may lead to a re-write.

The winding road leading to a perch-top mansion meant for “Barry’s” Fuches, aka the Raven, sparked ideas when Hader saw it.

“We stopped to take a look and Bill was like, ‘Oh, what if NoHo Hank [Anthony Carrigan] shows up, and he’s got a rocket launcher and they shoot at the house? The rocket’s gonna miss, and then the Raven’s guys are gonna come running down,’” Jansen says. “It all came together after we found the site.”

Likewise, plans for a rooftop-to-rooftop shootout at Hank’s NoHoBal headquarters changed when Hader saw the lobby of Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove—previously known as the Crystal Cathedral. “Bill was like, instead of having an exterior shootout, we could just do it here in the lobby,” Jansen recalls. Fortunately? Surprisingly? the diocese that owns the building OK’d a bloodbath being shot in its lobby.

Locations can make or break a show.

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“Without Chicago, there really is no ‘The Bear,’” Bidner says. “From a location point of view, your goal in the TV business is always to be invited back because that means you did a good job and they’re happy with you. As long as they invite us back for Season 3 I feel good about it.”


Why ‘The Bear,’ ‘Barry’ and ‘Jury Duty’ Struggled to Find the Perfect Filming Locations? ›

Because of the amount of work we wanted to do there, finding a facility that was willing to allow us to do it was challenging,” Jansen says. Prison exteriors and wide-angle interiors were shot at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.

Where does The Bear shoot? ›

The series follows a young chef from the fine dining world who comes home to Chicago to run his family's sandwich shop. It received good reviews and was renewed for a second season. The Bear was shot in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Filming took place at Mr.

How long did it take to film The Bear? ›

Many of Youk the Bear's cries are actually monkeys or children sounds. It took 6 years of preparation to start filming. The movie was then shot in 8 months.


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