HOLLYWOOD — “Quiet on the set!” a director yells. Good luck getting that to happen.
The VMAs may have taken over Hollywood, but MTV’s awards show isn’t the only shoot in town — let alone at Paramount. Here on the 65-acre lot, five separate television shows are under way: Selma Blair’s new series “Kath and Kim,” Christian Slater’s “My Own Worst Enemy,” “Privileged,” “Dirty Sexy Money” and, perhaps the most inconvenienced by the VMAs, “Everybody Hates Chris.”
“I wouldn’t say you’ve been bad neighbors,” teased Tyler Williams, the show’s star. “You’ve just been neighbors who’ve taken over half our lot.”
(See where the movie magic happens in this photo tour of the Paramount lot .)
The VMA main show takes place at Stage 16 — “Everybody Hates Chris” is at Stage 17. But the show also makes judicious use of the 46 New York-themed facades nearby, which the VMAs are borrowing for performances by the Jonas Brothers (on the “Brooklyn” block) and Pink (on the “SoHo” block across the street). In fact, the Jonas Brothers are going to be performing just in front of the brownstone used as the front of Chris’ house.
“You’ve been building things, moving in on the territory, dropping property values,” Williams joked. “But you’re making up for it with the Jonas Brothers. People performing right outside our house will be funny. One of us should come out and yell, ‘Shut up! God!’ [during the performance]. But we’ll watch and be like, ‘That’s our house! Our block! Our neighborhood!’ ”
Most of the shows have gone on like it’s business as usual — as long as they stay on one of the 29 soundstages (don’t even ask about the parking situation). And some of these stages are huge. One of the three for “Dirty Sexy Money” holds the Darling mansion, and it is so big, you could actually get lost inside and believe it was real. There are real flowers. Real wood for the floors. Real glass for the chandeliers. Real antique chairs for the foyer. It’s just around the edges that it becomes evident that it’s all a set.
But that’s just one of the many movie-magic touches all around the lot, where you’re constantly surrounded by something that looks real and something that’s fake and, sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference. Peppered around the stages are storefronts for shooting purposes — but some of the businesses are functional, like the dry cleaner, barber shop and hospital (which doubled as Kelly McGillis’ beach house in “Top Gun”). Tourists get confused and drop real mail into some of the prop mailboxes on the New York streets.
Old Hollywood types added to the confusion. Lucille Ball, for instance, had the lot build her a facade of her New York and Beverly Hills homes across the way from her office so she could take pictures there and pretend she wasn’t quite the workaholic she was rumored to be. New Hollywood isn’t much better, but at least most of the shows on the lot have a sense of humor about being here, considering the placards they place on the golf carts they use to putt around (“Everybody Hates Chris” becomes “Everybody Hates Actors,” for instance — and, just for us, they made signs that read, “Everybody Hates MTV”).
“We don’t hate you,” Williams said. But during a fantasy sequence the show had to shoot on the New York block this week — a shoot the VMAs delayed — Williams took inspiration from MTV to get in character. “I was throwing dishes, pots, pans, forks, knives out the window,” he said. “There was a car outside that I was throwing at, and I don’t remember — I may have blacked out — but I remember something silver on the car and throwing a knife at it. It might have been a Moonman.”