The NCIS:LA Familia Meet-up 2015 started with a bang. Better yet, a boom. A BOOM worthy of a season premiere or finale episode. What was it?
A tour of one of where the show is filmed.
Yeah. You read that right.
For those who couldn’t be there in person, allow us to be your guide. We started at the front of the Paramount Studios where we were met by the lovely Katie Barker, one of two publicists for the three NCIS shows. She led the group through the property to Stage 8, one of the two stages where the show is shot. It consists of ‘swing’ sets (those that are built for a few scenes and then taken down) and a few permanent sets.
Those permanent sets include the boathouse interior, which was our first stop. Unfortunately the interrogation room is not included in this area and the door was locked, glued shut and/or not a real door (it was checked). This set has so much to look at – the set designers have sprinkled the area with nods to boating and the beach and eclectic finds. At one point, Katie said something about ‘our first surprise’ (this should have been a clue as to how the rest of the tour would go but we were too distracted to process that little bit of information). Then our first surprise came in:
LL Cool J, the man who brings Special Agent Sam Hanna to life.
He welcomed us all, posed for pictures, and thanked us for watching. It was a lovely stretch of time spent with a lovely gentleman.
In a bit of a daze, Katie led us to our next stop: the gym. We learned that the rock climbing wall was installed with the understanding that it was not to be played on (boo), but that the basketball net is used not just for filming. The room also hosts scripting readings, other smaller sets can be built in the center of the room, and the hallways that lead to the bathroom go nowhere.
However, the short staircase does lead somewhere – to the firing range. After gathering in there and learning about how guns are fired indoors and during shooting, we moved on to the armory. The set designers put much thought into this room as well; there were tools, fake guns, actual weapons hidden behind the grates, and files filled with papers that looked as though they belonged.
The tour moved back into the gym where questions were asked until Surprise #2 appeared.
Chris O’Donnell, the man behind Special Agent G. Callen.
He chatted with the group, took time to take pictures with everyone, and made sure to tell us how appreciative he is of the show’s fans. Katie seemed to be enjoying herself, springing these surprises on us. We moved into the section of the tour where we all got a little more comfortable and started peppering her and Justin, one of the production assistants, with questions about the show, filming process, marketing aspects, Los Angeles, and life in general. Everyone was quietly wondering why Katie was hoping we wouldn’t mind waiting a bit longer (wait? on the NCIS:LA set? Somehow we found a way), when the third surprise walked through the door.
Hats! NCIS:LA 150th episode hats!
What did you think was going to happen? Did you think something else was coming? Because you’re right, someone else came through the door a bit later.
It was Monty.
No, it wasn’t.
It was Eric Christian Olsen, who plays Monty’s side-kick, Detective Marty Deeks.
He also took time with us to take some pictures, drop some hints, ask some questions and answer a few. With that final guest appearance past, Katie led the tour back out into the sunshine and around to the outdoor sets where exterior scenes can be filmed along different types of buildings. The tour wound through the studios and ended back in the parking lot. With a final group picture and a chorus of thank yous, the group left the studio.
The next day we gathered again, wondering what could top the previous day. After chatting about the experience, it was revealed that Katie hadn’t just arranged for a tour. She also sent along scripts, signed, from the season premiere which allowed the group to do a table read of the episode. It was, of course, followed by a viewing of that same episode. Presents from those who were there and those that couldn’t also had found their way to the group.
Overall, it was a lovely time for all. The cast and crew of NCIS:LA clearly appreciate the fans and are proud of what they produce and are happy to share it with them. A big thank you to sindee for all her work organizing the event, she did an amazing job. Another one goes to Katie for her enthusiasm and willingness to shepherd around a group of fans.
PS…we also learned things:
- That hatch in the interrogation room leads to a real tank under the floor. No one knew it was there until the idea was hatched for an episode and someone checked the building plans.
- A back alley in Mexico was actually a small space between a building and the back of a façade that had some decorating.
- A sunken parking lot painted blue can be filled with water to be used for aquatic scenes.
- Even the sitting area outside the on-studio coffee shop is used as a set.