The fictional town of Patience, Colorado is — to quote the South Park movie from 1999 — a “quiet mountain town.” It’s a picturesque slice of Americana surrounded by snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes…and an alien pretending to be a human physician.
In other words, it’s the perfect setting for SYFY’s Resident Alien adaptation, which didn’t shoot in Colorado. “In real life, it was based here in Vancouver. That’s where 90 percent of the filming took place,” location manager Ken Brooker tells SYFY WIRE. “It’s where we had our stages; we had two sound stages and a handful of locations. We shot 10 episodes, so on average, each episode probably had about a dozen or so locations within it.”
While the majority of interior locations were shot on controlled sound stages, all of the exteriors were real-world locations. For example, the outside of Harry’s cozy lakeside cabin was a facade at Britannia Beach, which actually borders an inlet, not a lake. “It’s part of the Howe Sound. … so you can cheat that reasonably and make it look like a lake,” Brooker explains.
When it came to sequences set atop snowy glaciers, the crew used two locations within British Columbia’s famous Sea-to-Sky Corridor: Rainbow Mountain and the Pemberton Ice Cap. “Both of those locations were helicopter access only,” Brooker reveals. “It was really a challenge to [get] people and gear and everything to and from [there].”
For the Patience exteriors and Main Street, the production broke from tradition by leaving the comfort and familiarity of Vancouver’s city limits for Ladysmith, a small town on Vancouver Island that can only be accessed by ferry.
“We essentially filmed it at about three or four historical blocks of downtown. The architecture came from the early 1900s,” assistant location manager Kevin McLean says. “To me, it was very similar to how we film in other blocks in Vancouver, but on a larger scale. We had to talk to the town’s council to get our traffic plan approved and we had to work with many little businesses for weeks in advance of the filming, which really only took place over two or three days.”
“Early on, the directive was, ‘You need to have a small town set in the mountains, kind of remote-ish,’” Brooker says. “It still needed to have enough infrastructure, it couldn’t be a sleepy little backwater necessarily. It had to have some sense of character and a real sense of place. A lot of that came out through Ladysmith.”
He continues: “One of the main things is the fact that our three big anchor locations — our town hall, our town’s clinic, and this bar called ‘The 59’ — all had to be visually linked and they had to be within sight of each other. Talk about finding a needle in a haystack. You need to have the perfect locations individually for each of those things, but then they all have to be in geographic proximity, so we were very fortunate. Ladysmith was a real good find for us and it played well. It looks great on camera and the people there were very welcoming."
The production didn’t spend a ton of time in Ladysmith (especially once COVID hit), but the cast and crew did get a chance to visit such local haunts as the vegan restaurant Plantitude. “It became really popular because a lot of the cast had specific dietary considerations, so it was kind of cool for them to find a place that literally catered to them,” Brooker continues. “Oddly enough, that particular restaurant is frequented by Pam Anderson. She actually lives in Ladysmith, believe it not. She’s from there and moved back; she’s sort of become the main patron of this place and it’s just attracted lots of people.”
Other popular joints were Zack’s Lounge, Roberts Street Pizza, and Old Town Bakery. When the shoot returned to Ladysmith in a post-COVID world, “there was a line up and down the block” for the bakery “because of the social distancing,” McLean remembers. “It’s a very popular spot.”
He concludes: “We were only there for a short amount of time, so people didn’t get a chance to explore, especially with our second visit coming after COVID. It was tough to do, but when we did have some downtime, certainly Zack’s Lounge and Plantitude. [Also] there’s an old hotel that was closed down that was just opened up [when we were there] and they had a pool table. It had a small-town feel.”
Created for television by Family Guy alum Chris Sheridan, Resident Alien premieres on SYFY on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 10:00 p.m. EST.