Vancouver trip/set report
(This report was previously posted on the Sentries and the Raft mailing lists.)
December 9, 1998
We (Becky and Robyn) just got back from a wonderful trip to Vancouver, and in the tradition of fans before us, we are posting a report of our trip and visit to the set of The Sentinel during the filming of the 8th episode, The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg. Don't worry, we'll warn you before any possible spoilers -- they'll be at the end. We also took pictures, and when they're done we'll put them up on a web page along with an enhanced version of this report. Go back to front page for picture viewing options or read on -- pictures are linked at proper places in this report.
On Dec. 5, we flew from southern California to Seattle and drove to Vancouver in some heavy rain and cold. At the border, we met the lovely Lois Balzer and Cathy Mayo who had graciously offered to make sure we felt at home in Canada. We followed them into the city, stopping on the way to see our first Sentinel site -- William Ellison's big white house in New Westminster from the ep Remembrance! By that time it was snowing, and we took pictures from our car. The house is actually the nicest one in a pretty lame neighborhood, even though the episode implied that it was in a nice upper-class one.
After dropping by our hotel in Burnaby (just 4 blocks from Pet Fly and right across the street from MGM studios where Stargate and Poltergeist are filmed), we went out to eat with Lois and Cathy, which was where the real fun began. While we were eating, Ryf van Rij called and invited all four of us to come to the set where he was waiting for his scene to come up! They usually don't film on Saturday, but filming was running behind. So we drove over to Pet Fly studios and got our picture next to the gate which has a sign saying "U.S. Embassy -- authorized personnel only" on it! The guard shack was all decorated for Christmas and has the Cascade PD Seal on it. Man, was it cold and snowing. Ryf met us and took us to his and Henri Brown's trailer where their dressing rooms were. We could not believe that they were inviting us into their trailer! Henri was inside and we got to meet him. Both Ryf and Henri were *so* nice to Becky and me even though they had only just met us. We sat and talked for awhile in their trailer (which is really small -- could probably fit two refrigerators only in the floor space). Ryf was dressed in typical GQ Rafe clothes -- a very stylish blue turtleneck and brown corduroy pants. As Detective Brown, Henri was wearing a red plaid long-sleeved untucked shirt and jeans. I noticed Ryf's red smoking jacket (from His Brother's Keeper) hanging in the corner. When I asked him about it, he said "You wanna try it on?" Duh! Eagerly I put it on (being of small stature, it was *huge* on me), all the while thinking "this is sooooo cool!" since I'm a huge Ryf fan and I love HBK. Their names are embroidered on the jackets and the logo says "Precinct Stogie Club" or something like that. Henri got into the act too and pulled out his red jacket and made Becky try it on. We've got pictures to prove this, honest! Then we got to talking about web sites (Ryf's started to surf the TS sites lately), and he told Henri all about my web site and how I'd listed all the episodes he's appeared in. I couldn't believe he'd actually been to my web site and knew all about it! Then Henri told us he had just finished the final recording of an original Christmas song he'd written especially for the Sentimental Christmas cd. The six of us crowded into the next-door AV trailer, and borrowed the tape deck in there so we could listen to it. Believe me, the song was fabulous! After that, we went back to Ryf and Henri's trailer where Ryf gave us autographed pics before we left.
After we left Pet Fly, Lois took us on part of the tour at night. We saw many of the downtown Vancouver sights, including the carnival park from BMB and HBK, the Hastings Racetrack (they changed the sign to Lastings in the ep) from His Brother's Keeper, the train station from The Girl Next Door, the Tandoori restaurant from Foreign Exchange, and the Renaissance Hotel from Foreign Exchange and Vendetta. We also saw the downtown building that was blown up in the pilot -- the windows are still boarded up (they never fixed the building!).
On Sunday, Lois drove us around the whole day for the rest of the tour. We saw so many things, but my favorite ones were Hargrove Hall #1 (another HH #1 pic here) from Rogue, Breaking Ground, etc. and Hargrove Hall #2 (S2), and of course the infamous fountain, all on the University of British Columbia's campus which serves as Rainier University. Then Henri called and Lois told him that "we were just at the fountain", and Henri said in a solemn voice "Oh yeah, the one we pulled Garett out of." Lois: "No, not Garett -- Blair" Henri: "Oh yeah, Blair" <g> Henri had to hang up because some guy named Richard <g> was calling on the other line, but he called us back later to invite all of us to come over to his recording studio after we finished the tour, where he was putting the last touches on the Xmas cd!
Besides the two Hargrove Halls, we went to the impressive UBC Museum of Anthroplogy where the beginning scene from Smart Alec was filmed (Blair talking to his professor/advisor) and saw the rose garden where Blair walked with Alex in Sentinel Too. We also drove over the bridge from Cypher, saw the "town" they filmed Crossroads in (I had always thought it was somewhere out in the boonies, but it's actually the Mountie station in the middle of Stanley Park in Vancouver city!). One of Becky's favorite sites was in North Vancouver at the impressive Cleveland Dam (aka Cascade Dam) from Blind Man's Bluff and Red Dust. After that, we saw another one of my favorites -- the outside of the Loft in North Vancouver. It was cool to get our picture next to the door of the building and Colette's. There's a pizza place and a lamp store next door, and across the street there's a bike store.
After we finished with the tour, we drove over to Henri's recording studio in Surrey. We had fun examining a big TS poster which was a collage of 3rd season pics (a copy was auctioned at the con). Henri played us parts of a new cd by Todd Woodward, a new artist whose record Henri produced (we liked it a lot!). Ryf showed up. Then Henri gave us a sneak preview of the audio tracks from the Xmas cd. We heard RB, GM, BAY, AG, Ryf, Henri, and some of the crew's Christmas greetings to the fans. Ken Earl read the Night Before Christmas very wonderfully. We also heard Danny Bilson's intro to the cd, in which he lets slip three *very* interesting words about Blair's future (you'll have to get the cd to find out! Don't worry, everybody will know when the cd premieres on December 14). Before we left, Henri gave Becky and me two cd's of his own work and autographed them for us! Then Ryf came out and waved goodbye to us. These guys are *so* sweet.
We had to drive back to Seattle for my residency interview on Monday (the excuse -- er, real reason for our trip), but we returned to Vancouver for our set visit on Tuesday.
Okay, SPOILER WARNING TIME! What follows is our report of our set visit on December 8, the next-to-last day of filming for the 8th episode of 4th season, The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg. It contains some tantalizing observations, but read no further if you do not want to be spoiled for this episode!
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Maureen was so kind to arrange a tour of the set at Pet Fly Studios for Becky and me. The bad thing was, this day ended up being a closed set so we weren't allowed to see any actual filming, but we did get to see the other sets which weren't being used. The set was closed for "safety reasons" to everyone except the actors and necessary crew. It wasn't that the scene they were filming was dangerous, but the set itself was (actually Maureen did explain the specifics to us and kept apologizing that we couldn't see the precinct set where they were filming, but we are under strict orders not to tell why <g>). We did get to peek in the door when it was open, and we saw them filming in some part of the bullpen with a green chalkboard on the wall, but we couldn't tell much more than that.
The first major thing we noticed when coming on set was a certain returning villain (not yet revealed to our knowledge) who was milling around the food table with the rest of the crew! We were confused at first because this person was wearing a uniformed cop outfit (we thought maybe the person was playing a different character) but Maureen confirmed that this person was indeed playing the same character again! It should prove *very* interesting, since Naomi is also returning.
We went to the loft set first. It was *much* smaller than we expected (it looks huge on the show!). They were done filming in there and weren't going to be using it, so we were allowed to walk around and touch things, sit on things, and do whatever we wanted. Nothing was covered. I sat on Jim's bed and the blue couches in the living room (there was a taped yellow X on the couch -- "That's where Richard's butt goes," Maureen explained; Garett's tape color is orange). They had started to dismantle Blair's room (implying hey, the kid must get to move back in! Yay!) so his bed was in pieces, though the bookcase was still there. I got a picture sitting at the dinner table holding up the first page of Blair's thesis (it was a huge stack of paper, but most of it was the same page copied over and over -- something about the Mayans). Jim's bedroom was very messy (Ellison would not have approved) and there were ties hanging on a shelf still in the store clips. There was a Christmas card to Richard propped up by the TV. We also got pictures in the loft's kitchen (we're in this one) and standing by the front door to the loft. I'm holding the key basket the boys always toss their keys into.
Okay, now for the real spoilers. Next we visited the temporary sets created just for this ep. The first one was a Rainier University set -- a room where Blair talks to his professors about his thesis. It had a fireplace and lots of wing-backed chairs, and was being dismantled. Next we saw a hospital set which was also being dismantled. According to Maureen, "something bad happens to someone and they end up in ICU." Is this the angsty hospital scene we've all been waiting for? Maybe not, but we can always hope <g>. Then we saw a set of the inside of a tenement building (pretty dirty and nasty and ugly looking). There was a large mirror on the floor that is involved in a very important scene for Jim. There was orange tape everywhere on the floor, indicating that Blair's probably going to be in that scene too.
We strolled through the cage where they keep all the props and signs, the art department, and some other ancillary production offices. Some of the crew were making props for the Sentinel/Viper Christmas party this coming weekend. They were also setting up for a stunt outside. In the main production office there was a yellow towel tacked up on one of the cork boards with the words "He's Just Damp, Not Dead" painted on it in blue (presumably sent in by a fan). We went into Bob Hargrove's office and looked at some large cast and crew group photos for Season 2 and 3. Then we sat in Maureen's office and looked at an album of still candid pics from various episodes. My favorite was one of RB stirring a mug of coffee with the muzzle of his gun!
Then we waited around for a while and met Ken Earl (he was so nice, dressed very sharply in a Joel Taggart suit), John Sampson dressed up like Jim (that man looks and moves so much like RB it's scary -- he's also very nice), and Dominique, Simon's stand-in. Henri came by wearing a Hawaiian shirt and gave us hugs and kisses and said he'd finished the Christmas cd the day we'd been over to the studio. Ryf also came by to say hi, and looked very good in a blue dress shirt and tie. We saw Paul DeMeo and Danny Bilson walk by, and Michael LaCoe actually stopped and thanked us and all the fans for all our support. We saw Garett walk by also, but didn't get a chance to talk to him. He was wearing a bright blue polartec pullover and jeans with the familiar brown hiking shoes. We are happy to report that his hair is still intact and looks lovely (no grease <g>) -- just a little on the shorter side, similar to the end of first season.
Finally, Richard came out and we got to meet him and get our picture (he's smiling in this one) with him. He was wearing a typical Jim outfit -- brown jacket, green v-necked sweater over a gray t-shirt, dark gray pants and those black shoes. I forgot to check for the white socks <g>. He was very gracious and asked us where we were from and about our trip. The way RB acts is so *not* Jim Ellison -- he's so relaxed and smiles a lot. We asked him about the SOS Rally and he said he was going to try to make it. (Maureen told us earlier that both he and GM are supposed to attend). Richard also told us that he had been fighting a cold -- he did sound pretty nasally and his voice was a little lower, but he was still RB <g>. He told us that Jack was sleeping in the car because he was tired after his swimming lessons. Just before he had to go, someone handed him a garlic sandwich and he said "I'm glad you caught me before I started eating this sandwich!" LOL. I smelled the thing and it had some pretty heavy garlic!
Before we left, Maureen gave us black The Sentinel hats. This lady was absolutely great -- she did everything she could for us short of getting us on the set.
Although we didn't get to see any filming, Becky and I feel very thankful we were able to make the trip to Vancouver at all and even get on to the set, which many fans don't have the opportunity to do. We had a great time and everyone at The Sentinel we met was incredibly nice and friendly. They really appreciate what the fans have done for the show. We can't give up on them now! We've gotta keep writing those letters!
Robyn and Becky
A picture of us in the airport wearing our Sentinel hats (Becky on the left and Robyn on the right)
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