ABC's new hit show, "How to Get Away with Murder", is supposed to be set in Philadelphia.
But like most TV shows, it wound up being filmed mostly in Los Angeles.
Take, for instance, the charming, blue & white Victorian house that doubles as the
law office of criminal defense attorney Annalise Keating (played by star Viola Davis):
This Victorian is a real home, built in 1895. But it's certainly not in Pennsylvania.
You'll find it at 1130 W. 27th Street, in the "North University Park District" of south Los Angeles,
The "North University Park District is a five-block residential area developed between 1887 & 1929.
just north of the USC campus & Exposition Park. It's on the south side of the
27th Street, at Monmouth Ave.
The neighborhood contains a number of notable homes (mostly Victorian and Craftsman style),
including the Doheny mansion, and is on the National Register of
Here is a Google StreetView of that Victorian house:
On the other hand, the interior of her law office/home, that we see on the show, isn't real.
If you've ever been inside an old Victorian home, you'll know that the rooms are
usually rather small - too cramped to make for an ideal filming environment.
So they built the interior of Annalise Keating's home as a set on Stage 16
at Sunset-Gower Studios (where they used to film "Dexter").
The interior set includes the stained-glass front door & entryway we often
see on the show, plus the stairs leading up, the living room, etc.
Early on in the first episode, we see law student 'Wesley Gibbins' bicycle through the
campus of what is supposed to be "Middleton University", in Philadelphia.
But in real life, this is actually the USC campus (the University of Southern California),
at 3551 Trousdale Parkway, in Los Angeles.
In fact, in the screenshot above, he is biking very close to the famous statue of
Tommy Trojan. The building seen behind him is the Gwynn Wilson Student Union.
( The USC campus is only a few blocks southwest of the Victorian house we saw earlier. )
In the screencap below, we see him stop, and walk into "Middleton Law School",
where the lead character (Annalise Keating) teaches "Criminal Law 100" -
or, as she prefers to call it, "How to Get Away with Murder":
That building is actually Bovard Auditorium, at USC - right across from the Student Union:
It is a performance venue, not a classroom. Here is a photo of the auditorium interior:
As you can see, it doesn't match the interior of Annalise Keating's lecture hall.
Here is a good Google Panorama of the same part of the USC campus.
So, if they didn't film the law school lecture hall scenes inside
Bovard Auditorium, where exactly did they film them?
This is where it gets a bit odd...
The usual practice of TV shows that pretend to be somewhere other than L.A. is to
send a film crew to the supposed location, shoot a brief "establishing shot"
of the exterior, and then shoot the actual scene indoors at either a
Los Angeles location on a studio set in L.A.
But this time, for some reason, they did the exact opposite.
After shooting the exterior at USC, they actually went to Pennsylvania
to shoot the interior of that introductory law lecture scene.
They filmed inside Olin Auditorium, at Ursinus College, in Collegeville, PA.
(a private college, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia.)
Even then, they had to build a set to make the stage look the way they wanted it to look.
But the seats, aisles, etc, where the students are sitting, are all authentic Olin.
They even recruited some Ursinus College students as extras to fill the seats.
And they have since built a near-identical classroom set at Sunset-Gower Studios
- except that the set doesn't have as many rows of seats as Olin Auditorium.
At the start of the show's second episode, Annalise Keating takes her law students to the
scene of a murder: the mansion of the accused wife-killer, the wealthy hunter Max St. Vincent.
We see them walking under a gilded dome, past an array of stuffed animal trophies, while
St. Vincent tells them his side of the story, and then reenacts the bloody murder in his bed.
This is actually the Doheny Mansion, at 8 Chester Place, in Los Angeles.
Built in 1899, this was the turn-of-the-Century home of oil tycoon Edward Doheny,
and is now part of the downtown campus of Mount St. Mary's college.
It's located just a few blocks east of the Victorian home, and less than
half a mile northeast of the USC campus.
Chester Place is a private street filled with Victorian mansions, located north of USC.
This round, ornate room, with its dome & marble columns, is known as the Pompeian Room.
The mansion has appeared on screen before - often - including in movies such as
"Princess Diaries", "Spider-Man 3", "Catch Me If You Can", "The Notebook"
and "The Three Amigos", as well as in a host of TV shows including "Crisis",
"The Gilmore Girls", "Angel", "Sliders", "Murder She Wrote" and "Alias".
Here's a photo of the outside of the Doheny mansion:
and the Pompeian Room's dome:
(You can read more about the Doheny mansion here.)
There are, of course, a lot of courtroom scenes on the show. And in the first two episodes
alone, they used two different locations for their courtroom interiors. Well, sort of...