toronto movies

Toronto is now playing itself in more movies and TV shows

In the trailer for the forthcoming The Handmaid's Tale television series, Toronto plays a city in the Republic of Gilead. Of course, Toronto's used to taking on various new identities in a slew of popular movies and TV shows.

Two weeks before The Handmaid's Tale premieres on Hulu, however, a new digital series will start streaming on CBC.ca. It's called Save Me and it follows a group of paramedics responding to 9-1-1 calls throughout Toronto.

Creator and director Fab Filippo (who appeared in Queer as Folk, Guidestones and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) describes Save Me as a sort of anthology. Aside from the main cast (the paramedics), it features new characters each episode.

Filippo compares Save Me to HBO's High Maintenance, which highlights the diverse cross section of people living in New York City. "I want to do that with Toronto," he says.

Save Me was shot throughout the city, including in the Canary District, at a frat house near the University of Toronto, and in the Financial District. It also features a cast of 46 local actors, including some big names, such as Tony Award winner Brent Carver.

For Filippo, it made sense to set his show in the city where he was born and raised. But he recognizes others aren't shying away from this either.

"More and more we’re not hiding that it’s Toronto," he says. "But I still see that sometimes it’s just like a backdrop and plays as any old big city."

University of Toronto professor Tom Ue, who edited the book of essays World Film Locations: Toronto, says it might be too early to say there's a bona fide trend happening, but he does note there's a burgeoning repertoire of films where Toronto plays itself.

This includes Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and The F Word as well as David Bezmozgis's films Natasha and Victoria Day, which are purposely set in the north end of the city.

The 2014 movie The F Word, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver wasn't just set in Toronto; rather, this romantic comedy written by Elan Mastai acted like sort of a love letter to the city.

"I think that inaugurated quite a new tradition that you’re seeing more and more of in television and in film," says Ue.

Of course, there are also Canadian TV shows - such as Rookie Blue, Degrassi and the newish Jason Priestley series Private Eyes - that also make an effort to highlight Toronto.

More recently, Toronto Tourism's new ad captured the city's imagination because it wasn't humble; it actually portrayed Toronto as cool.

Sure, it might be a long time before this becomes the norm, but until that happens, we can all get excited to spot local landmarks when The Handmaid's Tale debuts on April 26.


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