Home > Life, The Universe, & Everything > Designated Survivor Filming Washington, DC in Toronto & North York

Designated Survivor Filming Washington, DC in Toronto & North York


 

 

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Mystery building to the left of the street light on the far side of the road. (Click to Enlarge)

This summer I was meandering around my neighborhood in North York (fine, I was playing Pokémon Go and was on a poke-walk! Don’t judge me!) when I noticed this weird building to the west of the Allen Rd in what was either Downsview Airport or the grounds of the upcoming Downsview Park TTC Station. It looked like it was a medieval castle but not. I knew I needed to find out what it was so I came back with my point-and-shoot camera that has 21x optical zoom and took a bunch more snaps.

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I asked friends and neighbours if they knew what it was and showed the photos but no one had any better idea what the mystery building was.

 

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Fast forward to September 28 when I watched the second episode of the new Kiefer Sutherland show, Designated Survivor made by ABC and aired here in Canada on CTV. The show’s plot involves the destruction of the US Capitol building and they were showing the destruction’s aftermath when I noticed some familiar shapes.

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I googled “Designated Survivor filming location” and saw “Toronto, Canada” on IMDB and at once knew what that mystery building was, the set for that scene of the show! They had added a ton of CGI but it was 100% the same building. I even grabbed some screenshots of the 2 scenes where I noticed and confirmed my mystery building and included them below

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I thought I recognized other locations in Toronto while I continued watching the show but never really confirmed it until a few weeks ago when I happened to notice them filming a car chase on University Avenue between Dundas & Queen. My earlier theory of University Avenue standing in for…Pennsylvania Avenue? (I don’t know really because I don’t know Washington DC well enough) in a the second episode of Designated Survivor came when I noticed a speed limit sign supposedly in urban DC which said “MAXIMUM 50” which I knew must be a sign for a speed limit in kilometres per hour and not miles per hour.

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Ironically, this means the car chases passes by the American Consulate in Toronto. (I wonder if that was on purpose as a type of inside joke.)

Finally, I was passing through Downsview Park again, this time way further to the west, and I came across this set which appears to be the West Front of the US Capitol building. 

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Since there were no real fences or anything and I saw some other people walking their dogs on the site I decided to walk around and check it out up close.

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I got a bunch of pretty great panoramic shots of the set. You can even see the cherry picker they used to get some of the more aerial looking shots. I couldn’t guess what they used the tents for aside from shelter. Maybe safely storing equipment in case of rain or snow?

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And then I climbed the stairs and got up on the balcony. Wonder what happens in the show where that black mark is…I am guessing it is where someone is to stand so he or she is in the right place for the scene.

I even took a video showing off where it is in the park relative to the surrounding buildings and landmarks.

I wonder what other parts of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area have been masquerading as Washington D.C. for this show. Also, it really is amazing how much they use CGI to make sets look like complete scenes…but I guess that’s showbiz!

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  1. December 20, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    There was also a few scenes inside 900 Bay (The Macdonald Block) – Ontario Government building. As well the exterior was repurposed as the ‘NSA’ in one episode.

    Interesting to see Toronto landmarks in this US series!

    • December 21, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Fully agreed! It’s fun to notice while you’re watching. I wrote about this because this summer, I honestly was really puzzled about that building I saw and I had such a Eureka! moment watching the show I needed to share it. This became compounded when I ran into them filming on University and then found the second set for the more recent episodes.

    • April 21, 2017 at 3:43 am

      There’s actually still a sign on a Macdonald Block door that says “Rayburn Building.” Can’t tell if someone put it there to be cute or if the production team is using the room for storage for future shooting.

  2. December 20, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Kind of cool that they put the Capital where Queen’s Park is!

    • December 21, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      I honestly don’t know University Ave well enough so I’m wondering why you think we’re looking north to Queen’s Park as opposed to south to downtown? I always thought it looks south but I realize I have no logical reason for it, just assumption

      • April 21, 2017 at 3:38 am

        I actually took a pic the other day almost from where the University Ave convoy shot was taken. (Don’t know how to attach it though).

        The shot was taken from Armoury and University, looking north. I was 99% sure of the direction but don’t frequent that area as much as I used to and wanted to be sure. From my own reconnaissance this week I can confirm it.

        The easiest proof is the building half way up on the left with a little square sign at the top. That is a University of Toronto shield marking the presence of the Rehabilitation Sciences Building. As you go further up the block on the west side of the street (but hard to distinguish in the pic) you pass Mount Sinai and Princess Margaret Hospitals. At the top on the west/left side of the street is the Ontario Hydro building. Across the street on the east side is the newest of the MaRS towers. In between the two is where the Pink Palace (aka Queen’s Park) has been replaced by the ruin of the Capitol Building.

        Kudos to the location scout for picking out a great spot that offered rare open sky in downtown Toronto to plop the ruin into. And good on you Dan for spotting the Capitol ruin set at Downsview!

  3. jcinpa
    March 7, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Ironically, and coincidentally, I’m watching an old episode of Queer as Folk as I peruse this blog! For those unaware, QAF was a 5 season series that ran from 2000 – 2005. It was filmed almost entirely in Toronto and its surroundings, but the story line situates the series in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

    Go Canada! If I ever decide to film a movie, this Yank from Pennsylvania will have to stake out Toronto for set potential 🙂

  4. Sherry
    March 23, 2017 at 12:06 am

    So, Don, Where is the Camp David location?

    • steve
      April 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

      Miler Lash House U of T Scarborough campus

      • steve
        April 6, 2017 at 1:06 am

        sorry, should read Miller Lash House

    • April 7, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Sorry but as I said in my post I came across these locations completely randomly. I do not have any inside info on filming locations for this or any other show/movie

  5. April 16, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Great article. You might not have noticed but there was a convoy scene where they drove through Downtown Hamilton, with Hamilton Place on the left.

    • April 16, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Cool! I did not notice that. What episode was it in? I don’t know Hamilton nearly as well as Toronto

      • April 21, 2017 at 9:44 am

        Can’t remember. Relatively recent one from March I think.

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