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'Luke Cage' Crew Shares 8 Secrets About Filming Series in NYC

By Radhika Marya | November 22, 2016 1:23pm | Updated on November 25, 2016 2:21pm
 The "Luke Cage" location manager and production designer talked to DNAinfo New York about filming in NYC.
Luke Cage Behind the Scenes
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Marvel's "Luke Cage" debuted on Netflix at the end of September, bringing viewers yet another superhero show filmed in New York City.

Much of the show — whose hero specifically hails from Harlem — was shot in Harlem and Washington Heights, but the series also filmed in Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx.

"Our stage is at Broadway Stages in Greenpoint, so we definitely filmed on streets around Greenpoint and Long Island City as well," said location manager Jason Farrar.

And while "Luke Cage" did film outside Harlem, it was important to producers to make their fictional Harlem feel like it does in real life — unlike the stylized version of Hell’s Kitchen seen on other Netflix Marvel series "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones," crew members said.

"We embraced Harlem for exactly what it is. The color, the life, the activity on the streets," said production designer Loren Weeks. “There's so much character to the neighborhood… I think it was important to feel that these characters were rooted in the real place and not a stylized version of Harlem."

Farrar and Weeks gave DNAinfo New York some insight into what filming “Luke Cage” in the city entailed.

1. Pop's Barber Shop had its interior shots filmed on stage, while the building exterior was in the vicinity of 119th Street and Lenox Avenue. Establishing the barbershop was one of the first key tasks for the production crew.

Weeks: "[The barbershop] was an amalgamation of photographs of a lot of barbershops that I visited and reference images that I was able to get, neighborhood barbershops."

Farrar: "Once we found the perfect spot for the barbershop — not just the storefront, but like really feeling perfect, like it's really in Harlem and you could move the camera around it and really believe you're in Harlem, once that happened… everything sort of spun out of that."

2. The prison Seagate was another setting that was partially filmed on a stage and also filmed on location at the Queens House of Detention in Kew Gardens.

Farrar: "It's a little-used city jail with a lot of empty space in there, and a lot of people film there. So I believe on our stage is where [Luke Cage] meets with … the support group… and a couple of other things, like cells, like actual stuff in cells because it's really hard to film in a cell…. The corridors, where he gets sort of checked in for the first time, that sort of stuff was all at Queens House of Detention."

3. The church that Claire and Luke Cage visit in "Savannah, Georgia," was an abandoned church found in The Bronx after plans to shoot at a church in White Plains fell through.

Farrar: "Interior and exterior, we shot at that church…. We needed a church that we could graffiti up and sort of ruin… we just found this church that was empty, it was for sale… it was in the process of being sold to someone else and it hadn't been used in a long time. And we just really really got lucky. And a funny story about that place is, you don't see it in the shots, but we shot it a couple of days after that huge blizzard we got last [winter], and for a day-and-a-half, two days, we had teams of guys out there with front-end loaders and dumpsters, carting snow away."

4. The exteriors for Harlem's Paradise were filmed Uptown and in Brooklyn.

Farrar: "We filmed part of the exterior of Harlem's Paradise in Washington Heights… but then also, the very front of the marquee we actually shot at [Music Hall of Williamsburg]."

5. The club was inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, but had its interior built from scratch.

Weeks: "Harlem’s Paradise was purely fictional but had its essence rooted in the clubs of the Harlem Renaissance such as Smalls Paradise and the Cotton Club…. The idea behind that was that it was originally built in the late '20s, early '30s.... The furniture, the decor, we decided to go more contemporary with that because we didn't want it to feel like a museum piece. We wanted it to feel like it was updated and vital… although… the chandeliers hanging over the bar, which were actually comprised of chain link, [give] a sense of a period piece."

6. A big confrontation between Luke Cage and Diamondback, which was shot in the United Palace Theater, required a little bit of extra care from the crew.

Farrar: "I think [the stunt crew] had to weight things down a little bit more… ideally, they would anchor into things, like drill holes into things in order to do that stuff and we couldn't do that much of it. It was tricky in how to be able to do all the wires and stuff, but… it wasn't like any rules that were extremely restrictive. It was just about common sense in a historic place. Don't ruin the place."

7. A scene involving an explosion at restaurant Genghis Connie's required filming in multiple locations — the original exterior in the vicinity of 171st Street and Broadway, a stage and an empty lot in Harlem that required working with the NYPD to move nearby cars that had been seized for evidence.

Farrar: "Clearly we did not blow up a building — we had a practical explosion in the storefront for real…. then we weren't told at a certain point that we'd have to do this whole aftermath scene with the rubble and everything… So we [the team] got talking, I said… 'I guess we need to find an empty lot that feels like Broadway and 172nd Street, right? Where I can make a deal that we can bring in dumpsters full of rubble and surround it with fire trucks and everything.' And everyone’s like 'Yeah, that’s basically it.'"

8. One of the main challenges of putting the production together was making sure “Luke Cage” maintained its own identity while also remaining connected to the other Marvel series on Netflix.

Weeks: "You want it to feel like it's all in the same city, all in the same time frame, but you want each show, each character to feel a little different. Have its own visual identity. Some of that is lighting, and of course, some of that is production design and location work."

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