By SHERI RADFORD
Vancouver excels at portraying other places: Seattle, New York, Chicago and more in movies ranging from Juno and Mission Impossible 4 to Superman: Man of Steel and most of The Twilight Saga series. But rarely can it throw off its fake American mailboxes and license plates, stop hiding its glorious mountains, and just be itself.
When Simon Barry and Pat Williams started developing their time-travel TV series Continuum, they expected someone would make them change the setting to “Unnamed North American City”—or, at the very least, Toronto. Barry says, “Pat and I worked as cameramen for years on movies that were trying to hide Vancouver. A lot of effort and energy went into that.” He adds, “We live here and we love the city.” As time passed and no one raised objections, eventually Barry began to write the city into the series mythology, noting that the plethora of fresh water and hi-tech companies here, coupled with the low population density, make it the ideal city of the future. Barry films the series in the colder, rainier months of the year, so the little free time he does get is in the summer. “Vancouver is probably the best place in the world to be in the spring and summer and fall,” he says. “Winter is not, unless you’re a skier, and then it’s fantastic.”
The Continuum actors have also grown to appreciate Vancouver. Rachel Nichols, an American, had never been here before landing the starring role of time-travelling law-enforcement agent Kiera, but she fell in love with both the location and the Vancouverite who is now her fiancé. “I’ve applied for permanent resident status,” she says. “I’m really setting up shop in Vancouver.” She praises almost all of the outdoor activities, from biking in Stanley Park to skiing in Whistler, with one notable exception: the Grouse Grind. “I did it once,” she says with a laugh. “I’m in shape. I enjoy working out. But that is an hour and 15 minutes of hell!” Other things she praises about Vancouver? Dining at Yaletown’s Blue Water Cafe, shopping at Holt Renfrew and watching the Vancouver Canucks play: “I’d never really watched hockey until I came to Canada, and I started watching Canucks games, and I thought, my god, this game is fantastic.” She’s even managed to turn her Boston Bruins–loving father into a Canucks fan.
Fellow actor Erik Knudsen, who plays the reclusive computer genius Alec, hails from Toronto but is smitten with his new home: “Vancouver is a beautiful city. Great food. People are smart. Everyone is health-conscious,” he says. “Eventually I want to move to Vancouver. It’s my favourite city now.” He especially loves getting outdoors: hiking, fishing on Rice Lake, snowshoeing on Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour, and visiting Whistler. He also raves about the restaurants, especially Romer’s Burger Bar, Crave India and Earls.
Ryan Robbins, who plays the new and mysterious John Doe character, was born in nearby Victoria and has nothing but praise for Vancouver: “We don’t have to play the humility card anymore. We’re a kick-ass city. Why should we think that no one’s going to watch a show because it’s set in Vancouver?” After living all around the world, in places as far flung as New York, Los Angeles and Southeast Asia—and even travelling around Australia for a while, working as a circus performer—his heart still belongs to Vancouver, especially the foodie scene. His top spots include hole-in-the-wall sushi places such as Shizenya and java-aficionado favourites such as the Greenhorn Espresso Bar, with its Moja coffee and enticing nibbles that “take comfort food to a whole new level.” His loyalty to the city extends to its troubled hockey team: “Am I rooting for the Canucks? Hell, yes! I am a Canucks lifer. I will root for that team until the day I die, despite how bad they are.”
The city has clearly won the hearts of the show’s actors, and Continuum viewers in 133 countries seem to agree: Vancouver is ready for its time in the spotlight.
Season three of Continuum began airing last month. Visit www.showcase.ca/continuum for more info.