The Teen Dramas on Location
The core teen dramas were filmed in California, New York, and North Carolina, but occasionally in other states too — and sometimes even out of the country.
One scene in the penultimate episode of “Dawson’s Creek,” for example, was actually filmed in Montreal, as director Michael Lange told me in 2010. The episode’s ending was meant to depict Joey (Katie Holmes) in Paris, but instead of really traveling to the City of Lights, they filmed in a place that “does look a lot like Paris.”
Interestingly, Paris was a setting for a few of the teen dramas, but only one of the six actually shot there. Keep reading to find out which.
Beverly Hills, 90210
Normal Location: Van Nuys, California
Special Location: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
For episode 5.18, “Hazardous to Your Health,” production was moved south of the border for a storyline involved Dylan (Luke Perry). With the help of Valerie (Tiffani Thiessen) and Jonesey (Wings Hauser), Dylan sought to retrieve his stolen millions from Suzanne (Kerrie Keane) and Kevin (David Hayward). Keane, Hayward, and Noley Thornton, who played Dylan’s sister Erica, reunited to discuss the episode on the “Beverly Hills 90210 Show” podcast last October, with executive producer Larry Mollin reminiscing about how the installment came about.
Special Location: Oahu, Hawaii
For the two-part season 8 premiere, “Aloha Beverly Hills,” the gang went to Hawaii after Donna was hired to assist a designer during a fashion shoot. Jennie Garth (Kelly) was in minimal scenes because she had recently given birth to her first child, while the episode served as the introduction to Hilary Swank’s Carly and Vincent Young’s Noah. Jill Novick (Tracy) also made a guest appearance, months after her character was dumped by Brandon (Jason Priestley). A scene set amidst a waterfall was positively gorgeous.
Normal Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
Special Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The spring break-themed episode in season 5, “100 Light Years From Home,” passed off Myrtle Beach for the coast of Florida. Far more notable than the location, however, is that this hour marked an instance of teen drama worlds colliding: Chad Michael Murray not only appeared in his recurring role of Charlie, but he had a brief scene with his future “One Tree Hill” co-star Hilarie Burton, who was appearing in her capacity as an MTV VJ. After all, what’s a spring break without MTV? And here’s a fun fact: One of my favorite episodes of the series was also shot in Myrtle Beach — season 6’s “Castaways.”
Special Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
In episode 6.07, “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell,” Pacey (Joshua Jackson) travels with his co-workers to The Big Easy, but the debauchery gets out of hand thanks to the slimy Rich Rinaldi (Dana Ashbrook). It’s interesting they decided to make the trip just for one storyline involving one main character in a single episode, but perhaps they just didn’t want to fake New Orleans’ iconic Bourbon Street.
Special Location: Worcester, Massachusetts
Though the characters attended college in Boston in seasons 5 and 6, very little was actually shot in the New England area. But for episode 6.08, “Spiderwebs,” the No Doubt concert that serves as the episode’s central locale was really held in Worcester during a stop on the band’s Rock Steady tour. In an interview timed to the series’ 20th anniversary in 2018, co-producer Drew Matich revealed:
“None of our cast came to Worcester. We shot the soundcheck of the concert when no one was on the floor. All of the close-ups are during the soundcheck and all of the wide shots are from the concert. The guitarist at soundcheck and at the concert had two different guitars and we had to use color correction to make them look alike because they gave him a different guitar for the concert. It totally screwed us over.”
One Tree Hill
Normal Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
Special Location: Honey Grove, Texas
In 2007, episode 4.17, “It Gets the Worst at Night,” was filmed in Honey Grove after a contest in which fans submitted videos sharing why the show should shoot in their hometown. Now-disgraced creator Mark Schwahn said at the time:
“Ultimately, we chose Honey Grove, Texas, not only because of their infectious video submission, but also because the fans there are indicative of all ‘One Tree Hill’ fans: passionate, clever, smart fans whose energy and enthusiasm was impossible to ignore. We were humbled by the response to the contest and are appreciative that [sponsor] Sunkist is helping us take the show to Honey Grove, the sweetest town in Texas.”
To incorporate the location into the plot, the preceding episode showcased Rachel (Danneel Harris) and Mouth (Lee Norris) setting off on a road trip. In this hour, Skills gets a text from Mouth, who has somehow ended up in Honey Grove and needs help, leading the rest of the characters to come to his rescue. While doing so, they crash the local high school’s prom. Much to everyone’s surprise, they also end up running into Chris Keller (Tyler Hilton).
Special Location: Park City, Utah
For the season 7 finale, “Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said the Last Time I Saw You,” everyone traveled to Utah for a Sundance-like film festival where Julian’s (Austin Nichols) movie was premiering. The snow-covered hills provided a fair bit of fun, but there were some significant dramatic developments as well — including a pregnancy, an engagement, and a shooting. The cast documented their time in Utah with behind-the-scenes videos that were shared on social media.
Normal Location: New York, New York
Special Location: Paris, France
While a few episodes in season 3 of “Beverly Hills, 90210” were set in Paris, filming really took place in Los Angeles. But for “Belles de Jour,” the season 4 premiere of “Gossip Girl,” the show actually filmed abroad. In fact, the special trip was much hyped in the media and by The CW, with coverage beginning months before the episode actually aired. The following installment, episode 4.02, “Double Identity,” was shot in France, too, keeping the local paparazzi quite busy. The plot revolved around Serena (Blake Lively) and Blair (Leighton Meester) spending their summer vacation in Paris, where, unbeknownst to them, Chuck (Ed Westwick) was too.
Special Location: Los Angeles, California
“Gossip Girl” switched coasts for the season 5 opener, “Yes, Then Zero.” Serena is working as production assistant in Hollywood, which Chuck and Nate (Chace Crawford) visit to cap off their summer travels. In the following hour, episode 5.02, “Beauty and the Feast,” Serena is still in L.A. and considering staying for a while and even moving in with Charlie / Ivy (Kaylee DeFer).
What about “The O.C.,” you ask? Well, despite the season 1 classic “The Escape” being set in Tijuana, those scenes were actually filmed right in Hollywood. And for season 4 scenes meant to depict Ensenada (in an episode titled “The Gringos”), those locations were all in Los Angeles too.
As for “90210,” I’m not familiar with any of the show’s non-L.A. settings actually being filmed outside California. Of course, nu90210 is also my teen drama blind spot in a lot of ways, so if any of you “90210” superfans know something I don’t, just holler at me!
Do you have a favorite special teen drama location? Share in the comments below!
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As far as I remember, especially as I was following a 9-Oh fan website that used to do heavy coverage of the show's filming locations during its run, nu90210 was strictly conservative, location-wise, with their outdoor shoots, keeping it mostly in southern California.
They had episodes that were set outside LA but never shot there for real: Their Mexico spring break episode in Season 3, and the two episodes set in Las Vegas , one in Season 4 and the other in Season 5 Episode 1.