We hope that you’ve heard by now about USA’s newest original series Common Law and have started your own countdown until the series premiere on May 11 (… 14 days to go!), but in case you haven’t, here’s a taste of what you have to expect:
Back in December, I had the great opportunity to head down to the magical New Orleans, Louisiana, with a group of journalists and visit the set of this funny, charming and absolute-perfect-fit-for-USA series. While on set, we did speak with series stars Warren Kole, Michael Ealy, Jack McGee and Sonya Walger and you can expect to see all the great insight they had to share with us in the next 14 days, but for now, I want to give you the low-down of the set visit itself.
To kick off the adventure, we headed to a welcome dinner at Le Foret where the excitement immediately began when we were the first individuals – outside of the USA Network – to view the pilot! A full review will come in the next two weeks, but let me tell you, you’re not going to want to miss a moment of this. There are moments that make you laugh at loud, moments that tug at your heartstrings and plenty of moments that make you question whether you’re actually Team Travis or Team Wes – I’m still not sure I know which one I am!
At the dinner, we had the pleasure of speaking with Sonya and also meeting co-executive producer Karim Zreik (Jericho, Harper’s Island) who would serve, more or less, as our guide for the set visit. While it’s great to pick at the minds of the actors, speaking with Karim and hearing his insight on the show was one of the best parts of the visit!
The adventure continued the next morning when we went on a tour of New Orleans with Jimmy Woods, the show’s Location Manager. Jimmy was an absolute gem who is so excited about his job – even when it’s stressful. Can you even imagine, having the task of making New Orleans appear as Los Angeles for filming every episode?
As Jimmy explained, he’s “doing 11 little movies,” and after just hearing about what he goes through, we understand what he means. He has five days to prep each episode, which means not just scouting out locations to use, but convincing the owner’s to let USA use their property and figuring out what they’ll need to do to make NOLA look like LA.
Jimmy has general tips – avoid distinct things like the Super Dome or the French Quarter which are very specific and inherent to NOLA – but it’s always a new challenge to make a scene work. That’s where Jimmy really shines because he loves “thinking out of the box,” by trying to make it fun and bringing everyone into the world of the show.
There were plenty of quotes throughout the ride that exemplified Jimmy from his repeated use of the USA mantra that everything is “blue skies, blue skies” to his own admission, “control, that’s me, I like it,” but perhaps the best of the best is this gem: “I’m always looking for places where dead bodies could be found.”
Come on, now that’s priceless! He’s also always looking for places to have chase scenes or buildings that he can convert via signage and atmosphere. It’s not an easy job, but Jimmy Woods pulls it off for Common Law episode after episode. Seriously, watching the show… you’d never know it wasn’t LA!
Check out some pictures of places we visited and sights to keep in mind because you’ll see these in one way or another in this season of Common Law:
When we finished with our on-location tour, we headed to the set where we spent most of our time in the Community Center room where the group therapy sessions happen. Yes, in this very room, Warren Kole and Michael Ealy don their roles of Wes and Travis and sit side-by-side as Dr. Ryan (Sonya Walger) leads the session with the unhappy couple and others in a somewhat similar situation. When we got to the set, the group of us certainly felt like we were about to experience our own group session.
After speaking with Warren, Michael and Jack McGee, the police chief, we left our group therapy session to explore the rest of the set. Our new friend Karim joined us for most of the day and led us all around the set, from the costume department to outside where they displayed the much-beloved car featured in the show for us.
Hmm… wonder what character this rack is for…
Dr. Ryan’s very zen office.
Welcome to the Community Center!
Are you here for the therapy session, too?
Maybe you’re here for the Yoga class that is in here after the therapy session ends?
This would come in handy if this were a real police department.
Where the officers go when they need to hold a meeting or get the low-down of their own.
Sometimes, Travis and Wes will have to pay a visit to the M.E.
Don’t mess with this car! Or you’ll face a rather unpleasant LA detective…
To round out our experience, we headed over to filming. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out and we didn’t get to see Warren and Michael in action – but we did see their doubles helping to set up the scene for them, with the crew there ready to hit marks and adjust cameras to the proper positions. It was definitely a quiet-on-the-set moment as we got a behind-the-lens look at how the show is made… and what we can expect from the show down the line!
Overall, it was an unforgettable experience on the set of Common Law. Not only did our chats with the stars make us love their characters even more, but seeing what goes into the production and the talent that exists on the crew made me 100% sure that Common Law is going to add another notch in USA’s belt… and that everyone will fall in love with it by the time the season premiere comes to an end on May 11.
Check back now through May 11 for interviews and the pilot review from my set visit! What fun would it be if we gave you everything at once?
For now, we’ll leave you with this picture that should give you an idea of what Travis and Wes have gotten themselves into with these group therapy sessions. We promise… it makes for some great TV.
Series Premiere of Common Law airs Friday, May 11, at 10 PM on USA.