This fall, you'll see Studio City transformed into Las Vegas before your very eyes. CBS's new legal drama The Defenders is set in Sin City, but they're shooting locally at the CBS Radford studio lot.
The defenders of the title, Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell, play Las Vegas defense lawyers and they are regulars in the Studio City area. They've each shot series in town before and they're happy to be back. Belushi even bragged about the Radford lot, where he filmed According to Jim for eight years, to the Television Critics Association at their fall press tour.
"The Radford, the Radford Lot, CBS Radford, we are the best stages in town," Belushi said. "We are shooting there, thanks to the lovely people from CBS. They've chosen that location for us to shoot. I like Radford. Stage 9 is a great stage. According to Jim [shot on the] same stage. I've got the same dressing room. I'm so excited. There's a Starbucks on the lot, five sushi restaurants on Ventura Boulevard. You know, it's about the life, too. CBS Radford is cool."
Besides According to Jim, he is the brother of the late John Belushi, and starred in movies like Red Heat with Arnold Schwarzenegger and K-9 with Jerry the dog. O'Connell is famously the husband of supermodel/actress Rebecca Romijn, and the child actor star of Stand By Me.
Stage 9 wasn't just the According to Jim stage. Later, O'Connell reminded Patch.com that another historic TV classic used Stage 9 at Radford. Local historians may remember that that was the stage of for nine years of Seinfeld.
"I was going to say another show shot there, Seinfeld," O'Connell said. "It's kind of fun to be there just because I know we're on the Jim stages and that's really historical, but it should also be noted we're on the Seinfeld stages. I believe they call it stage 9 over at Radford. It's sort of a part of history, television history at least."
Belushi wasn't neglecting the shows that came before him. He was just happy to be back. "We were going to shoot somewhere else and I was like, 'God, don't you think we should shoot at Radford?'" Belushi said. "We had to talk them into it so I was just joking because the guys are over here. It's just a great place. Seinfeld's on stage 9, According to Jim was there, it's a great lot."
If you're near the corner of Radford Avenue and Ventura Boulevard where the lot is located, you might catch the stars around town.
"That area, my dry cleaning guy is right there," O'Connell said. "They all say that the soup nazi was based on the sushi nazi which is based on that restaurant Nozawa which is right across the street from Radford. That's where we work, in that little radius."
Or, if you work at one of the local establishments, you might get a call for delivery to Jim Belushi. "You also bring it in," Belushi said. "You can bring it in but you get little breaks. You have meetings there and stuff. It's just nice. It's a nice community. Daily Grill's there and Katsu-ya's there. Carney's is not far from there. Delis are down there. Cigars, there's a cigar shop down there."
O'Connell feels comfortable in town. He spent over a decade working in nearby Universal City so he's already traveled west.
"Listen, I worked for 10 years at the Universal lot," O'Connell said. "I did Sliders there for four years and I did Crossing Jordan for six years. All those sushi places are right there in Ventura and all the people from the studios go there. It's almost sort of this microclimate of studio people."
The show's creators, documentary filmmakers Harry and Joe Gantz, began making a documentary about real life Vegas defense attorneys. Belushi and O'Connell play fictional characters, but there are plenty of crazy Vegas crimes to inspire their episodes.
"I mean, there was one case where a guy goes into a liquor store, holds up the liquor store, [says,] 'Give me all your money,'" Belushi recalled. "The guy gives him all the money, and the [robber] says, 'Now, give me that handle of vodka, that Johnnie Walker scotch and that Jack Daniels.' And the guy said, 'Oh, sir, I'm sorry. I can't give you the alcohol.' And he said, 'No, give me the alcohol. I want it.' He says, 'No, no. It's obvious you're underage.' And the guy goes, 'I am not underage.' 'No, sir, it's obvious. I'll get in a lot of trouble with the state. They'll lose their license here.' He goes, 'I am not underage' [and shows him his ID to prove it.] So now I've got to represent this guy who pulled out his license. I mean, they get some really stupid people."
The Defenders filmed their first episode in Las Vegas for authenticity. That was intense though, so O'Connell is happy they've moved to recreated sets at the CBS Radford lot.
"Our call time when we were in Vegas -for reasons of either using the casino or we shot on the Strip [where] we closed down a portion of the Las Vegas Strip - was 1 a.m.," O'Connell said. "We'd typically work 13 hours a day. We had a few scenes we did a 14-hour workday. So, you understand, we got to work at 1 a.m., and then we were finished at 3 or 4 p.m. the next day."
O'Connell continued, "I had to go to the store at Planet Hollywood, the little convenience store they have there, and I was buying these don't-sleep pills, not the NoDoz, but they were herbal. I was trying to be natural in my taking of these pills every two hours, but then I was very concerned of what my performance would look like, if I'd look like a crackhead on the screen. And I saw it, and it actually added another level to it."
The Defenders premieres Wednesday, Sept. 22 on CBS.