Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How TV's Southland Embraced L.A.'s Local Eats


Not only does TNT's "Southland" showcase parts of Los Angeles rarely seen on TV, but it ventures into some of its legendary and lesser-known eateries for some true-to-life color. Among the joints showcased on "Southland": Philippe's, Langer's, Tony's Steak House, El Siete Mares, El Tepeyac (Manuel's special burrito, of course), Cha Cha Cha, S&W Diner, Johnnie's Pastrami, Pacific Dining Car and so many more.

The L.A. Weekly's Squid Ink blog recently asked "Southland" associate producer and location manager Mike Haro to talk about "Southland's" connection with L.A. eateries:

SI: Name a favorite restaurant that's appeared on Southland.
MH: I have several favorites. For us, budget is always a concern, but we were able to film briefly at Bottega Louie. Earlier this year we had a scene where a car totally crashed into a restaurant and we used this really cool Filipino place called Bahay Kubo.

SI: Explain your process step by step: Do you drive around by yourself?
MH: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The way the show works, I'll get the script and break it down and discuss ideas with the director and production designer. Once they sign off, I will have my scout go out, but oftentimes, because I know the city so well, I'll say, "Go here, and check around these streets." He'll go and come back with whatever he can find in those areas.

SI: When you shoot at a restaurant, is it all visual? How important is it that the Southland cops are shown eating at a place that actually serves delicious food?
MH: We want to have at least some interesting features of the restaurant. But we are also of the belief that whatever is real is real. If we're told to find a certain kind of restaurant, we will. We like to go on locations that are readymade, that we don't have to enhance. The challenge for me and my scouts is to really make sure it fits the character, without having to do anything. A lot of shows dress a location to fit the character. Sometimes that doesn't feel real. It looks art directed as opposed to looking like a real location. I think that's key to our show having that gritty, real look. In the next couple of episodes, you're going to see some locations that we never could have art directed.

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