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Andrew Eccles
September 08, 2021
Features

Making Montana

When shooting in New Mexico was curtailed because of Covid, Big Sky producers had to make substitutions.

Jennifer Vineyard

Back in 2020, Big Sky was able to shoot only a single scene for season one in its original location — Santa Fe, New Mexico — before the state shut down production due to Covid-19 concerns. So Big Sky decamped to Vancouver, Canada — a good substitute for Montana, despite its Pacific Northwest vibe. However, the location posed problems for cast and crew. "In normal times," showrunner Elwood Reid points out, "going to Vancouver was nothing. Hop on a plane, and you're there in three hours." But the two-week quarantine in effect for those entering Canada didn't allow for any back-and-forth travel.

"That meant we were all there for the run of the show," explains Omar Metwally, who plays U.S. Marshal Mark Lindor. "We couldn't go see family on days off."

For season two, Big Sky was able to return to New Mexico, which offered both a tax credit and a larger pool of available talent, figuring in nearby California and Texas. Also important: New Mexico looks more like Montana than Vancouver does, as Reid (a Montana resident) attests. "Squint, and it's almost the same," he says.

Brian Geraghty, who plays killer Ronald Pergman, agrees. He has spent so much time shooting in Albuquerque (on eight previous productions), he feels like the city is almost his "second home."

And despite its desert reputation, New Mexico has a diverse landscape of lush forests, grasslands, mountains and more. "Those mountains off in the distance are going to seep into the show," Reid promises.

"It's such a big area, and we're going to be traveling throughout the state," says executive producer Ross Fineman. Cities and locations that were scouted for season one, but not used, will be seen in season two, such as the town of Las Vegas (not to be confused with the gambling mecca in Nevada). "It has a great Old West feel to it," Fineman says.

The other advantage that New Mexico offers over Vancouver is more sunny days, which help keep a production on schedule. Of course, that also means more frequent heat. "It feels like the show might be taking place in the fall or winter, and here we are in the middle of summer outside," says Kylie Bunbury, who is about to begin the third trimester of her pregnancy and sometimes requires extra layers to hide her bump. "Being pregnant certainly doesn't help!"

Proximity to Roswell may also inspire some story ideas, if actress Dedee Pfeiffer has her way. "I told them they should have [office assistant] Denise be abducted by aliens," she says. "Then Denise goes to work and tells everybody, and they think she's completely insane. That would be super cool."


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 10, 2021


For more on Big Sky, click HERE

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