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Crew brings touches of Pittsburgh to Hollywood

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Story and photos by Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Displayed prominently on the wall of the office occupied by Burton Fallin (Dabney Coleman), a photo of Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy at PNC Park hangs on the wall beneath a clock. It's signed to a "Joe."

Click photo for larger detailed image of Mayor Murphy's photo

Property master Matt Cavaliero said the photo came from Mayor Murphy's office. "Here's an example of trying to be authentic," he said. "We used the real mayor of Pittsburgh to help place the setting and people who live there recognize that."

The identity of "Joe" remains a mystery, although production designer Caty Maxey suspects it may have been the name of a "Guardian" staffer who requested the photo.

Inside The Incline bar/restaurant, it's a treasure trove of Pittsburgh paraphernalia. From Heinz ketchup on the tables to a Rolling Rock metal sign on the wall, Western Pennsylvania is well-represented.

Click photo for detailed image of the "Incline" menu.

Cavaliero said the crew changes the taps at the bar regularly, always trying to have a Pennsylvania beer represented. "We have Yuengling, [one from] Penn Brewery and Iron City. My favorite is the Iron City tap because I think it looks the coolest."

The show's art department created the menu for The Incline. Series creator and Pittsburgh native David Hollander described to his staff the feeling he wanted the place to connote. "In his mind he knew places it was like in Pittsburgh, and he tried to explain it to us in terms of restaurants in Los Angeles that reminded him of what he was going for," Cavaliero said. He dined at one L.A. eatery Hollander suggested to get a better feel for what the show's creator envisioned. "It's not just the stuff you see, but also the stuff that's not there intentionally," he said. "We very rarely use Corona in there because it's more Southern California than it is Pittsburgh."

Click photo for detailed image of thePittsburgh skyline print.

On the set of Legal Services of Pittsburgh, Simon Baker and Wendy Moniz (back left) prepare to film a scene from an episode that aired earlier this season. The camera is inside the office that once belonged to James Mooney (on the left, behind Baker), preparing to film Baker and Moniz as they enter. The director watches the scene on a monitor at the "video village" set up inside what used to be Alvin Masterson's office (straight back with bright light reflecting). That office once held this print showing the Pittsburgh skyline, but none of the current designers knows its origin.

Stage 21 at Sony houses "swing" sets, those that are used occasionally but not every week on "The Guardian," including Lulu's house, Nick's home, the police station and the hospital.

Sign wall featuring street signs of Pittsburgh.

There's also a sign wall featuring street signs used when the show goes on location in Los Angeles and tries to double for Pittsburgh.

"Our main challenges are architecture -- we try to get brick or clapboard buildings and try to stay away from adobe and stucco -- and palm trees are always an issue," said Maxey.

Cavaliero said Hollander always tells the crew what part of Pittsburgh an exterior scene is to be set in to help them better replicate a realistic sense of place.

"He has an idea if it's Shadyside or South Side and we try to pick a place that will simulate to that," he said. "People watching at home won't always see that, but we try to arm ourselves with that kind of information."

TV Editor Rob Owen can be reached at or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to under TV Forum.

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