Walking down King Street East in Hamilton, Canadian fans of the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy may notice some familiar sights featured once again in the show’s latest season.
The series, about a supernatural, time-travelling and dysfunctional family, begins Season 3 with the return of the siblings to the present day after putting a stop to doomsday in Season 2.
Upon returning home, they realize things are not how they left them.
The academy, shot using the front of a building at 4 King St. E. in downtown Hamilton, is now the Sparrow Academy, inhabited by a whole new set of characters in the timeline the family has returned to.
So they hole up down the street at The Residences of Royal Connaught instead.
“There was nothing else that even came close to sort of the look that we wanted,” Umbrella Academy producer and showrunner Steve Blackman said of the condominium building, not far from the academy facade, that serves as the exterior of Hotel Obsidian, the new home for the Hargreeves siblings in Season 3.
Most of the filming for this season, which launched on June 22, took place in Toronto and Hamilton, featuring well-known spots such as the Scarborough Bluffs, the Gardiner Museum, and The Lakeview Restaurant, all in Toronto, and in Hamilton, Gage Park and a nightclub on King William Street.
The Netflix series filmed previous seasons here as well, notably featuring Ottawa Street North as a stand-in for Dallas, Texas.
In an interview with CBC Hamilton, Blackman said the backdrop of Hamilton has helped create a “moody” vibe for the show, with the Royal Connaught building this season’s most iconic location.
“The Royal Connaught became just a blessing for us because we needed an exterior that was sort of period,” Blackman said.
After negotiations to lock in the set for filming, Blackman said the team was “incredibly relieved” when it was approved.
“It’s such a beautiful building. It has such a beautiful history,” he said. “The show is based in a hotel and we looked everywhere to find that hotel… When we found the condo we knew instantly we had found the right one.”
Kim Adrovez, the senior production manager of the Hamilton Film Office, said one of the major draws for shooting in the city is the variety of architecture.
“We have such a great inventory of built heritage, where we have different types of architecture from different periods that productions can use to achieve vastly different looks.”
While the top of the Royal Connaught building has been modernized, the show’s production team was able to remove that with visual effects (VFX), Blackman said.
“It was sort of a blessing because we could get in front of it and we could shoot it — very hard to do that in Toronto.”
Despite a lot of construction in the city, Blackman said filming on location, in front of both buildings, was an asset, especially considering they are so close to each other.
“If not for that, I don’t know what we would have done this year. We really got lucky,” Blackman said.
“As we say, it was a two-fer — we got both of them within a block of each other.”
Shooting during COVID-19 also had the production team facing restrictive rules for filming in Ontario, but the Residences of Royal Connaught allowed for a bigger set to be built.
“The hotel became a very, very big set. There’s no set extension with VFX. It’s legitimately that big – what you see is what you get,” Blackman said.
“It was important to set a very moody hotel that was a character in of itself.”
Hamilton ‘very welcoming’: Blackman
Overall, filming in the city has been a great experience for the crew, said Blackman.
“We love Hamilton,” he said. “We had such kindness from the shop owners who let us take over a street there,” Blackman added, referring to the Ottawa Street North set for Season 2.
“Hamilton is very production friendly. They’re very welcoming to us and very reasonable in sort of figuring out ways to work within the city.”
Adrovez said this is something the city film office strives for.
“We have so many industry professionals who work in Hamilton, but also just the community at large really embraces it and supports the industry and works with them to make their spaces available as locations.”
Last year, the Hamilton Film Office broke records for the number of film productions and film-related revenue brought into the city. The office reports 151 Productions filmed in the city in 2021.
Data released by the Motion Picture Association of Canada (MPA) shows the “significant economic impact” specifically of The Umbrella Academy in Ontario, with more than $77.3 million spent on the production of Season 2 alone and the creation of 1,100 jobs, including 620 for local artists and technicians.
For Season 2, shooting took place at more than 38 Hamilton locations and included wardrobe and props from Hamilton shops. Hamilton also has seen local acting talent become part of the show — actor T.J. McGibbons plays a young Viktor Hargreeves, a flashback version of Elliot Page’s character in earlier seasons. (Some of the locations used for the filming of the show can also be explored via Netflix’s In Your Neighbourhood website.)
“When you look at the impact that just one production has in terms of jobs and spending and roll on effects, you can quickly see how valuable this industry is and how important it is to our local economy,” Adrovez said.
Our latest economic report breaks down the local impact of <a href=”https://twitter.com/UCP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@UCP</a>’s <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheUmbrellaAcademy?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TheUmbrellaAcademy</a> for <a href=”https://twitter.com/netflix?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Netflix</a>, with the global streaming series spending more than $77 million across <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ontario?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Ontario</a> in the making of S2 alone: <a href=”https://t.co/7xCputFRPk”>https://t.co/7xCputFRPk</a> 🎬🍁📽️ <a href=”https://t.co/gEXmUUn4BF”>pic.twitter.com/gEXmUUn4BF</a>
Blackman said he doesn’t see film productions slowing down this summer, expecting that Ontario sets will be in demand.
“I think we’re all going to be fighting for the same space. Toronto, Hamilton, Pickering and all those places are going to get really busy.
“It was our little secret – now that the secret’s out, everybody wants to go there.”