Since the late 1970s, many American TV shows and films have been shot in Toronto, some of which have used Liberty Village to substitute for desolate American cities, using the interiors of the neighborhood’s classic industrial buildings to represent bygone eras, and using its streets for police chases. Though much of the neighborhood has been re-designed beyond the limits of its industrial aesthetic, it is worth noting the films and TV that have been filmed in Liberty Village from the 1980s up until today.
The little-known ‘Liberty Street’ (1995)
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The same team that worked on the original Degrassi came to Liberty Village in the mid-1990s to depict the lives of young adults living in Toronto. Similar to a Canadian-based Friends, the series known as Liberty Street only lasted two seasons on the CBC but marks an interesting time capsule moment for anyone living in the Liberty Village neighborhood in this period.
Part of the abandoned building where The Fly’s lead character, Seth Brundle (played by Jeff Goldblum), worked on his experiments is a building in Liberty Village. Though now demolished, the building that used to stand on Liberty Street gives a glimpse into Liberty Village circa the 1980s. For anyone seeking a great Toronto-based film, The Fly also features a number of scenes in and around Yonge Street, Dundas Street, and the Kensington Market among other areas in the city.
The original Police Academy film involves an on-foot chase scene that winds its way onto the streets of Liberty Village. Though it is somewhat hard to recognize as so much of the neighborhood has changed since this film was originally put together, if you keep an eye out for it, you just might catch it! Among the major landmarks featured in this case in Police Academy includes the Irwin Toy Factory, the old Brunswick Factory, and the now formerly known as Hanna Avenue.
One of Guillermo del Toro’s earliest films, Mimic has proven to be an underground cult hit and depicts a little bit of Liberty Village in it though they are difficult to spot. Some of the interiors of the heritage buildings in the neighborhood were used for several sequences depicted in the film. Though it is not as flashy in its use of Liberty Village as some of the other titles on this list, Mimic is still a highly-rated film that the neighborhood can be proud to have hosted.
Narc is a crime thriller from the early 2000s featuring Ray Liotta that garnered strong critical reviews at the time of its release. Narc depicts a pre-gentrification Liberty Village showing Liberty Street and what is now the Toy Factory Lofts as a backdrop for what is supposed to be the gritty streets of Detroit. This is a prime example of how Liberty Village has been used in the past to double as some of the more beat-up cities in the United States, quite unlike with what the neighborhood currently looks like.
Cafe Mnemonic, which plays a key role in this Rachel McAdams/Channing Tatum starring film, is actually Liberty Village’s own The Roastery. The Vow contains scenes from all over Toronto including key scenes that would be recognizable to anyone who has been a customer of the Roastery.
A Favourite among Toronto TV Series
Played (CTV, 2013), Covert Affairs (USA Network, 2010-2014), The Beauty & the Beast (CW, 2012), and The Listener (CTV, 2009-2014) all have shot sequences in the Liberty Village neighborhood. Due to the old looking buildings that still represent the industrial factories of yesteryear, the exteriors and interiors both have been re-designed for days at a time over the course of the last few years for TV series such as those mentioned above.
In addition to the growing list of films and TV productions that have used Liberty Village for both exteriors and interiors, the neighborhood now plays host to over a dozen premiere video editing and design companies. Though Liberty Village might not be used for any police chases anytime soon, its historic buildings still make for unique interiors and the spirit of filming in the neighborhood continues to attract productions every year.