Made in Louisiana: On Set With the Crew of NCIS: New Orleans
On a warm March day, we took a drive outside of New Orleans to Harahan, Louisiana, and found ourselves, improbably, back in New Orleans. We were standing in a courtyard off of St. Ann street between Bourbon and Royal. Directly in front of us was a large kitchen, and beyond that a high-tech command center where serious investigative work is routinely conducted. But out in the courtyard, we were marveling at the weather-beaten air conditioner, a fountain overflowing with plants, a wrought iron spiral staircase, and an old stable sign, paled and chipped (the type of thing that would sell for big bucks in an antique shop), wondering how they could get it to look all so perfect? How could they replicate the feeling of being in New Orleans, a city that feels like nowhere else on earth?
This was the soundstage where the cast and crew of CBS's NCIS: New Orleans films a good portion of the show when they’re not out on location. The detail of the sets, from the courtyard to the command center (it might have a ton of high-tech equipment, but it still retains a scruffy, distressed NOLA feel to it) to Dwayne Pride’s (Scott Bakula) apartment, is astonishing. The look of the soundstage, down to the dented air conditioner hanging outside of a second story window, was all meticulously crafted by designers, construction workers, plasterers, painters, carpenters and countless others. And once the cameras are rolling, it's the gaffers, key grips, camera men, hair stylists, costumers, assistant directors, script supervisors and more who make sure NCIS: New Orleans looks, feels, and flows the way a proper Louisiana-set story should. Fans tune into the show to see what's happening in the lives of Naval Criminal Investigative Services, played with aplomb by the aforementioned Bakula, CCH Pounder (Dr. Loretta Wade), Zoe McLellan (Meredith Brody) and others—those characters and their lives, shaped by the state and the city they live in, are made possible by the work of hundreds of people whose names those fans rarely know.
And who better to help create a Louisiana environment for the show than Louisiana locals? We spoke to a few of Louisiana's own when we spent a day on set. There was an energy on the soundstage, an infectious sense of excitement, coming from locals who had long dreamed of working in in film or TV in their home state and were plying their trade on the highest rated new drama since Desperate Housewives, some ten years ago. As Louisiana continues to bring in or create film and TV opportunities (the state is both utterly singular, in an only-in-Louisiana-way, and can also double as almost anywhere, thanks to it's ecological diversity), it now has a robust local infrastructure that can support it. From HBO's True Detective to Universal's upcoming Pitch Perfect 2, the state's TV and film industry is thriving, and NCIS: New Orleans is a big part of Louisiana's robust entertainment industry.
The finale of NCIS: New Orleans airs next, Tuesday, May 12th at 9/8c on CBS.