GRIMM Set Visit

     November 10, 2011


While on the set of Grimm, we walked by a trailer where it looked like someone was lying down, getting an extensive amount of make-up applied. Mostly naked, it was hard not to look up with curiosity and then look away out of modesty. A big make-up wouldn’t be that surprising for the show, as it definitely deals in the fantastical and the macabre. Grimm stars David Guintoli as a cop named Nick Burckhardt who discovers he comes from a long line of Grimms – those that hunt and protect the world from the fantastical creatures of yore. To help him, he’s got his cop partner (Russell Hornsby) and Eddie Munroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a werewolf who has decided to never use his powers for evil. But Nick tries his hardest to never let those worlds intersect.

After talking to Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, the producers of the show, we went by that trailer again on our way to lunch, and the person was still there. Finally – after some food – we got to go into the make-up trailer and only then did I realize that the body was a dummy. Movie (or in this case TV) magic. Our set visit on Grimm follows after the jump.

To recap, here are our interviews so far:

grimm-imageFor us, the set visit to Grimm was also a visit to Portland – which the producers said was the only place they could set the show. We started by going downtown for breakfast at Mother’s. The locally-owned breakfast nook required early reservations, and we were in a rush to get there, but traffic wasn’t bad. As we ate our breakfast, a walkathon was wrapping up nearby, but with many of its participants made up as zombies. Having grown up in Portland, this makes sense – though a show like Portlandia may be a bit exaggerated, it’s not without its truths. That sort of thing seems so inherently Portland.

For our talk with the cast and crew, we went to the Bridgeport Brewery, where we were given a guided tour through their facilities. All I wanted to do was make Strange Brew jokes, but as we walked with the six leads of the show, it was hard to know who would respond. As we were given a taste of their actual hops and the tour of their bottling facilities – which we were told produced zero waste – you could see the cast circle in and talk to each of us out of curiosity. I’ve often describing doing interviews like speed dating, as it’s about spending a couple minutes with someone you’ve never met before and trying to form some sort of connection – or at the worst not embarrass yourself or them. I could see that they were trying to be open, though this was (as it was for us) a form of work.

grimm-imageInitially we sat with the cast on one side of the table, and reporters on the other, but with nine people around a huge table, there was no way we were going to make much of a go at a coherent conversation. Reggie Lee and Sasha Roiz liked my “How to Breakdance” shirt, and so the three of us went off to a table by ourselves. They were having fun and good sports, though by then we had not only food, but had gone through a round or two of tastings of the Bridgeport beer.

Next I got Silas Weir Mitchell and he was thoughtful, and happy to have a conversation. Having done some directing, we ended up talking about the Alexa, the camera they use to shoot the show, and how it was approved by Roger Deakins – the Coen brothers’ cinematographer. Mitchell had shot a short on the Red and talked about how with that camera you have to make more decisions before you shoot than after, as there are so many things with it you can’t fix in post. We toasted while drinking a strong IPA, and had a couple of bites to eat before I talked with David Guintoli.

We were told the cast were mellow and enjoyed having a couple of drinks, so it was interesting to note that David hadn’t been drinking. For him that had more to do with staying on top of his game as the lead of the show. He was nothing if not gracious and honest, and it’s the sort of thing that endears you to both the man and the work.

grimm-image-02I felt bad that I didn’t get to talk to Bitsie Tulloch or Russell Hornsby, but there was a notion that I might be able to grab them on set (which didn’t come to pass). Bitsie then took off a little early. Most of the cast lived near the Bridgeport Brewery, and so she came back within a couple of minutes with her dog. We were told that they were all friends with each other at this point, and nothing became clearer through our interactions. Our host had thought of getting us rented bikes for a ride around Portland, but after a couple hours at the bar, that thought left our minds. We were all full of beer and food and work.

The next day we had a later call for our set visit than had initially been suggested, but the main thing was we were going to talk to Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt about the show. When we got them, I started by praising Jim’s work on The Hidden, and Greenwalt mentioned how great he thought it was, and we got talking about some of their earliest films. It was nice to see them light up immediately, what you always want in an interview.

grimm-image-03From there we were given lunch, and a chance to see the make-up trailer, where the body was revealed to be a dummy. Make-up artist Stephen Bettels gave us a quick tour of his work facilities, and how quick he has to work on some of the appliances. The process has sped up a lot over the years, but there’s also things now that are just done CGI.

We then got on set, and – to be fair – television set visits are fine to visit, but often you’re watching a dialogue scene. Here we saw David Guintoli and Russell Hornsby having a quick conversation in a hospital. There was a blown take because one actor decided to go with a fist bump over a pat, and it caused the actors to break and laugh. But everyone was busy with the work, and shortly thereafter we went over to Northwest Portland to see where the sets were.

Nestled in the industrial district were the sets and – as the primary cast was shooting on location – we got to tour without interfering with the shoot. They showed us the house where Nick lives, his aunt’s trailer and the police station. We got to wander around, and you can tell they tried with the photographs meant to be of the characters at younger ages to not make it that phony (there’s only so much you can do). But sets like this – other than the breakaway walls – are seamless in their design, and you almost wish you could grab a soda in their non-working fridge. The trailer was filled with all sorts of paranormal paraphernalia, with every drawer filled because (as the prop man said) the actors shouldn’t have to question what drawers they can open.

grimm-image-03Both of these were contained, but the Police station had the scrim with a photograph of downtown Portland. There also was the autopsy set, which was mostly clean. With sets in general, it’s the details that always get you, and there were wanted posters on the wall, with the pictures made up of crew members.

Portland has taken well to Grimm, and it’s good to see the show is succeeding in its time slot. Set visits like this make you wish a thing well, and at the time none of us knew if the show would make it through the first thirteen episodes – especially at the rate the studios keep killing new shows off. Though the first episode didn’t win me over, it looks like they’re creating something that could be interesting once things come into place, and where a show is by its fourth or fifth episode is a much different place than the pilot. I hope to see Grimm around for a while.