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BIG READ: THE KILLING a “Damp, Good Mystery”

Published April 8, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

I would like to take credit for calling The Killing a “damp, good mystery” but Entertainment Weekly magazine coined that gem after the show’s two-hour premiere on AMC last Sunday. Filming in Vancouver for the past four months, the 13-part series about the murder of a teenage girl uses local rain and rain-making machines for atmosphere like horror series Supernatural uses local valley fog and smoke machines. I stood mouth agape on a wet, miserable day in early January watching The Killing crew set up a rain tower in Gastown outside their “Seattle Police Station” thinking: isn’t our rain good enough for TV? Some TV critics went so far as to list “heavy rain” as a co-star in the Seattle-set drama and you can see a damp, grey sheen overlaying the visuals.

A close adaptation of a hit Danish TV series, The Killing stars Mireille Enos as Sarah Linden, a pale, stoic, russett-haired homicide detective so consumed by the murder investigation she barely ever changes her sweater (although when I first photographed her near the Dunsmuir viaducts she had changed it from the Scandinavian sweater of the premiere to a serviceable grey wool one).

Mireille Enos’s detective character is not one for talking but she’s at peace with herself and provides a steady, calm focus during the emotional unfolding of the story. Her detective partner played by Joel Kinnaman is the unpredictable one as their investigation leads them to the dead girl’s grieving parents, played by Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton, and to a Seattle Mayoral candidate, played by Billy Campbell, whose campaign is somehow entangled.

I first caught up with The Killing filming a scene of the two homicide detectives walking to and talking inside their unmarked police car near the electral sub-station at the Viaducts on a grey day in early December. Not long after, I found Billy Campbell in a blue sweat suit playing hoops at Coopers Park basketball court under the Cambie Bridge for a scene with high school extras. He later changed into his candidate coat and suit for a scene at the nearby Quayside Marina of him getting information from a private investigator. A few days later, I watched the filming of a media scrum at night and in the rain outside a stone building at Homer & Pender downtown. Campbell’s city council president pulled up in a black town car, emerged encircled by media extras and flashing cameras and gave a brief statement on the steps. After the holiday hiatus, I found The Killing at their Seattle Police Station set on Carrall Street in Gastown, using a rain-making machine in the pouring rain.

It seems like The Killing filmed daily in the downtown area for most of January, but after watching one more night shoot of Campbell’s character filming a campaign ad on the basketball courts at Andy Livingston Park I opted out of photographing any more of their shoots. The low lighting and lack of action in The Killing makes the series markedly different from the typical American procedural with their exterior setups of flashing lights, car chases and explosions. And while I find it mesmorizing to watch The Killing unfold on the screen (kept forgetting to exhale during the premiere) it is not mesmorizing to watch them film it.

Each episode of this serial mystery represents one day in the investigation, so it makes sense that The Killing keeps returning to the same locations from week to week: the Seattle Police Department on Carrall Street in Gastown; St. Jame’s Church in Gastown (where I saw them film a funeral); a small boat named Franann moored in the Quayside marina in Yaletown and the Strathcona school in the downtown eastside, among others.

The film crew also hit a few pubs and night clubs: filming inside the Yale Hotel with a greenscreen outside the windows on Granville Street to add images of Seattle; the Metro pub in Gastown; and Club W on the 42nd and 43rd floors of the Woodwards Redevelopment.

One day in March I came across The Killing crew set up near the Olympic Cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza filming a scene with Mireille Enos in the sun. It looked so wrong that I wasn’t surprised to hear that they returned there for re-shoots last Friday in the rain — something our city isn’t short of in the winter months. But now that Spring has sprung and the Japanese cherry trees are in bloom, it’s time for The Killing to wrap its first season and let us enjoy this murky who-done-it on the screen in all its Nordic noir glory. Or as @CTran84 put it on Twitter:”The Killing is so intense. Nothin has had me on the edge of my seat like this since “who shot mr burns?”


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