By Michael Ranger
A large television production crew is gathered outside the Franklin Pharmacy in Washington D.C, a U.S. postal service mailbox sits out front.
On most other days the “Franklin Pharmacy” is actually the Don Russell Pharmacy on Lakeshore Boulevard in Etobicoke. The U.S. mailbox is nowhere to be found.
On this day the crew are in the process of shooting scenes for the third season of the Netflix political drama Designated Survivor. The filming included interior scenes from inside the pharmacy as well as exterior walk and talk scenes along Lakeshore. Filming in the area wrapped on Nov. 1.
The show is just another example in a long line of films and TV shows that have used Toronto as a substitute for another location. For years now, film and TV crews have been masking Ontario’s capital as other parts of the world.
“I’ve done multiple films and shows where we’ve cheated Toronto as different countries,” says Nikhil D’Souza, the Assistant Location Manager for Designated Survivor.
D’Souza says the main reason production companies want to shoot here is because the province has done a good job providing incentives to studios.
“Ontario gives an amazing tax credit to anyone that brings investment for their production up here,” he says. “We are giving back to the community by doing it here and it boosts the economy.”
Toronto in particular has the type of architecture and cityscape that is similar to many American cities and a lot of studios look to use it as a replacement for those places. “Most people come to Toronto for city looks like New York, Detroit, Chicago and Washington,” says D’Souza.
But he notes he has also worked on occasional projects that have cheated Toronto as much more exotic locations. “Iraq, Afghanistan, Philippines, I’ve even done Asia in Hamilton.”
Bruna Reci, owner of the Don Russell Pharmacy, says she has had her business scouted for shoots on multiple occasions. Though this is the first time someone has actually used it for filming. “Whatever works for them I guess, they have their own vision,” she says.
Reci says she didn’t mind closing her business for part of the day to accommodate the production. “We were open for half the day but when they came in with the cameras we couldn’t be here. There were like 100 people in here.”
The first two seasons of Designated Survivor aired on ABC before they cancelled the series earlier this year. It was subsequently picked up by Netflix for the third season. It stars Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland in the lead role.
Season 3 is scheduled to be released sometime in 2019.