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When you think of Canada (which hopefully you do at least once in a while), do images of white sandy beaches, tropical temperatures, and palm trees come to mind?  In October?

Apparently for the producers of the TV series, Designated Survivor, it does.

Now, Canada has developed a strong, stable film industry.  It has long been favoured by American production companies because of the advantageous gap between the US and Canadian dollar.

It is common for Toronto to double as New York or Chicago in movies and TV shows … but Cuba?

Recently I was down at Scarborough Bluffs enjoying the balmy autumn weather with a hike along the top of the Bluffs, when I decided to drive down to the beach for a walk along the shore.

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I was fascinated by how the sky and water disappeared into one another

You notice I said “drive”.  It is seriously frowned upon to climb or descend the Bluffs, and there is a hefty $5,000 fine if caught.  By “caught” I mean that you end up getting stranded on the cliff and need Emergency Services to rescue you.  That’s the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is that you plunge to your death.  It happens to some would-be adventurers – every year.

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… but I digress.

Towards the far end of Bluffers Beach was a construction crew tearing down a wooden structure I’ve never seen before in this area.  After watching them for a while, my curiosity got the best of me, and I finally approached a security guy to ask what they were doing.

After all, this is not normal activity on the beach.

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It turns out they were tearing down a set used for the recent filming of an episode of Designated Survivor.  I was supposedly standing on a beach in Cuba.

As I turned around to survey the beach with this new perspective in mind (which incredibly it never occurred to me to photograph), I guess I could see their point.

Last time I had been down there, the beach had been ravaged by flood waters, but on this day, it was a beautifully pristine beach with gentle blue water as far as I could see.

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May 2017 – a flooded beach in need of a cleanup

But what about the Bluffs dressed in their autumn finery?  How could they be passed off as Cuba?

Well, according to Security Guy, it had something to do with camera positioning, angles, blah, blah, blah.  Not to mention the fact that they had brought in potted tropical greenery to “plant” along the set.

Yeah, sorry – I only got the general gist of it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I don’t know much about the TV show, except that the entire US government is wiped out in a terrorist attack during a State of the Union address, and it stars Kiefer “Mumbly-Mouth” Sutherland.

I now know however, that the TV show is shot entirely in Toronto in a former military facility in the north end of the city.  Inside this studio, a replica of the West Wing has been built, including the Oval Office.

If you watch this show, and especially if you’ve seen the Cuban episode, I’d love to hear from you.  Did the shores of Lake Ontario make a convincing beach in Cuba?

So the next time you are planning a tropical getaway, do like a big Hollywood producer, and think Canada.

… although if you are planning to come anytime soon, I suggest a good fleece-lined coat might be needed to accompany that swim suit.

 

115 comments

  1. I am a nosy person so I could be your Helen. . . I usually can get back scenes, different entrances and inside cabinets displayed by using my “girl next door” (Mary Tyler Moore like tone, not looks!!) I really liked that you even got film crew telling you things!
    I liked the pretty curved beach with white sand and blue water, Joanne!
    I loved the old song, “Sweet City Woman” and even had one guy call me this since he was small town Sam to me. 😊 I wrote on your About page and how I now know the band was from Canada. I’m sure I told you my first honeymoon was in Niagara Falls for one night and Toronto for two nights in the pretty, tall Harbour Castle Hotel (1978) on the Bay. Smiles, Robin

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    • omg! I haven’t heard Sweet City Woman in FOREVER! Talk about a soundtrack from my youth. Yes, The Stampeders were definitely Canadian 🇨🇦

      I know the Harbour Castle Hotel very well – although I think it’s a Westin Hotel now and only old people like me still call it the Harbour Castle 😏
      I mentioned it a few weeks ago to my son when we were talking about wedding plans (his) and he had no idea what hotel I was talking about.

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  2. Hi Joanne! I’ve been so caught up in politics that this is my first visit to WP in a good while.
    Yes, I do think of Canada. Often, in fact, and I can’t wait to visit again (it’s been years!).
    Anyway, that beach and those cliffs are beautiful!
    Hope you are well!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m afraid I don’t know very much about Canada. I think of forests, lumberjacks, pine trees, and moose! Mountains and green valleys. And snow in the winter. I don’t think of it as being a very warm place. I think they can make any place look like what they want, these clever film people! It does make you think why didn’t they just go to Cuba!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh – the magic of television can make you believe just about anything.

      Speaking of make believe – last night we were watching the US election returns coming in and the commentator mentioned Roanoke, and I thought ‘hey, I know someone there’. I love blogging for that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am laughing at your calling Keifer Sutherland “Mumbly-Mouth.” We watched the show when it started last year, and this year too up until just a couple of weeks ago. We finally bailed on it because it started to get monotonous. I also got tired of my wife making fun of the way Sutherland spoke all of his lines. I couldn’t figure out what was more distracting: him or her! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, i’m ALWAYS thinking of Canada, as you know, though i’ve never spotted the resemblance to Cuba. Glasgow often plays other cities on film, it has been Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and New York (historically in some cases). The film units often park on playing fields near us which is a total pain, though makes money for the city so I shouldn’t complain. The Highlands and Islands have tropical looking beaches and might have been able to play Cuba – golden sand, blue sea – but with freezing temperatures. Nothing on screen is ever what it seems…

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    • You’ve just answered a question I’ve often had about historical pieces. Of course it would make sense to go to England or Scotland where so much older infrastructure still exists.
      I live in a pretty boring area, so I rarely get to see film crews.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m thinking budget, budget, budget. The security guy said they couldn’t create the scene in the studio (duh!), so they had to find a location that could meet their needs.
      Ahhh – the magical make-believe world of TV 😉

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  6. Ha, ha, that made me smile. I’ve never watched “Survivor” and I’ve always wondered at what they dub “reality shows.” How many people get stranded on an island and then get voted off? I’ve never met any. As for the rest, I well know the camera can lie after our younger daughter and I went to London some years back. The hotel room that looked if not huge, at least spacious, was barely big enough for two twin beds with space between them and our luggage had to sit in front of the door at night in case anyone had to get up to use the bathroom. We did have a bathroom as part of our tiny room, which was a blessing, an also tiny blessing. 🙂

    janet

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    • Thankfully this wasn’t the reality show Survivor, but rather a TV drama called Designated Survivor. As much as I don’t care for the reality show, I would hate for anyone to be trying to survive a fake Cuba on the shores of Lake Ontario in autumn!! Hypothermia anyone?

      … and yes, the misleading photos of rental properties. We’ve been burned by this one more than a few times. We’ve been more than a little disappointed on occasion!!

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  7. I have to say that is some creative thinking to turn Canada into Cuba. Good thing they didn’t pick western Canada or they would be doing a great deal of editing with the snow! Still at the view you gave looking down the beach I could actually visualize it. I’ve never heard of the show but it would be interesting to see those scenes for sure. Oh and do stay off those cliffs. Wowza!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Bluffs were particularly bad this year because of all the rain we’ve had. The soil is quite unstable and there have been many ‘landslides’. It still doesn’t seem to stop some people from venturing out on the cliffs.

      I’m pretty sure that the day there is snow in Cuba, it will be one of the signs of the Apocalypse 😉

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  8. Groan… how COULD you not take a photo of the beach they were indicating? No good showing me a ‘one I took earlier’ i want to know what they were seeing then! You do seem to find the most weird, odd, strange interesting subjects on your wanderings. And no I don’t know that show, but wiping out the entire US government is SUCH a good idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have watched the the show. I get laugh when when Kiefer Sutherland is sitting in the back seat of the Presidential car going down a street in Washing DC and there is a Go Transit bus following him.

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    • Really?! That’s great!! I’m terrible at picking out those kind of small errors in a scene, but my husband loves to catch them.
      Now you can be on the lookout for Lake Ontario – aka Cuba 😉

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  10. well enjoyed your post and whoa – never would have imagined cuba – but I guess with green screens they can do a lot these days- I put this show on my list to watch and will try and get back with you and will take a screen grab if possible.

    oh and I used to watvh TVS more when kids were of a certain age and we were surprised to see the Canada maple leaf in the credits (my boys have cousins in canada and so they were all proud)

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      • Indeed – and it seems like many shows I HGTV had Canada locations – one more quick tidbit – yeas ago – I remember being floored (shocked) when a show featured a house from canada that was rented and turned into a marijuana grow house – it was the first one I had seen and it was a nice home in an affluent neighborhood and was shocked at how the outside looked normal and the inside had irrigation – walls ripped out – lamps – greenery rows – ventilation – we have many in the States – but was shocked to see that first one from Canada

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    • That’s the problem with TV serials – they just become too much. In some respects that’s the reality of life, isn’t it? Non-stop drama and backstabbing. That’s why I’m always looking for the pretty side 🙂

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  11. It’s hard to imagine Canada being a stand-in for Cuba, but I imagine if they add a few palm trees and cuban music in the background not many people would notice. We had a cable series set and filmed not only in our city but – for the most part – in the community where I grew up. It was fun seeing houses/streets/businesses/scenery that I recognized.

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  12. I would have bet against Canada passing for Cuba as well (especially in October). I’m not much of a TV watacher…but I will definitely look out for ‘Designated Survivor — The Cuban Episode!’

    Liked by 1 person

  13. That is so funny! I’m glad you’re a curious person, Joanne – your followers get to go on all your curiosity-adventures. I would never think that Canada in October could pass for Cuba, but after seeing your photos, um, I guess so. Who needs Hawaii, when the tropics are a quick trip north?
    Keep exploring!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sassy watches Stranger Things, which is supposed to be set in Indiana, and it’s completely obvious to me that it’s not Indiana. In that show, I see plant life that we do not have, that I recognize from the south. So I Googled and found it’s filmed in Georgia. I feel vindicated, but also, robbed. As if rural anywhere could be rural anywhere. Pffft.
    I should think most people will be fooled by some tropical plants and the shade of the water there. It’s interesting to discover this. I continue to appreciate your curiosity and research.
    Personally, I’m more interested in those bluffs… and parkas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s why I’m so interested in seeing this episode. I want to see exactly how convincing the beach scene is – now that I know it’s false.

      … and seriously, as if you could be fooled that Georgia is Indiana! What were they thinking?!
      …btw. we’re now into episode 6 of Stranger Things, Season 1 and quite honestly, it scares me silly. I can handle only one episode at a time 😱

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  15. Makes sense they’d film in the Toronto area – the Sutherlands are Canadians (at least Donald, the father is) It started out a very intriguing show (Designated Survivor) but lately I think it’s jumped the shark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect that nationality of the star in the show had little influence in the filming location.
      Unfortunately most shows jump the shark pretty early in their lifespans. The premise always starts off interesting, and then they milk it past its best before date.

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  16. Wow, I’d like to see how they hide all that gorgeous Autumn color. The bluffs are beautiful, but sound like you’re a bit nuts to try to come down by foot. I’m glad you drove.

    I’ve never seen the show, but am curious enough now to watch just to see this episode and how they did it to look like Cuba. I suppose they could cut out all the foliage and photoshop some tropical background.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My reaction is the same as your’s. I want to see that episode to see if I can catch a glimpse of the real Toronto landscape 🙂
      The Bluffs are just so big and imposing, I can’t imagine them somehow not being there.

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  17. I had no idea Designated Survivor was filmed here! I love that show. Now I have to hunt for that episode. Thank you so much for sharing this. We know several people that live on their boats at the marina there. Great shots of the area!

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  18. That’s pretty amazing. Thanks for digging into the mystery. I was in Vancouver in 2004 and as I was walking back to my hotel from dinner, I stumbled into an intersection in New York City, complete with stairs down to a Subway stop. I guess you can make anything look like anything. Then again, Toronto as Cuba ???

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    • So true, Dan. As you said, anything can be made to look like anything. Unless we see it with our own eyes, it’s hard to know what to believe is real.
      I imagine it was a little odd walking through the streets of New York …. in Canada 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  19. That’s really interesting! I just started watching the show, so I’m only in season 1, but I will try to discern Canada next time I watch. What a cool discovery. (BTW did you by any chance watch the series “Being Erica” set in Canada? I thought it was kind of cute.)

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I recall the day that you and I stepped beyond the barricade at the edge of those bluffs. Do you mean to tell me that I came THIS close to DYING?! [wink]
    As for the location of Cuba del Norte… I am speechless. Makes me want to watch that episode online when it is released.

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    • hehehe! Who knew you were such a daredevil?!

      I like that name “Cuba del Norte”. I wish I had thought of it as a post title 😉… and yes, I went searching for the episode online, but I suspect it hasn’t been released yet.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly does.
      Earlier this week we were watching a movie that was based on Switzerland … supposedly. It had the most incredible drive along a mountainside that I would LOVE to see someday … assuming it’s real.
      Computer animation is so good now that it can make just about any scenery look real.

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