If you should happen to find yourself on the “Off The Map” set, don’t forget to apply bug spray. Take everything Zach Gilford says with a grain of salt. Keep an eye out for what the cast of “Lost” left behind. These are the lessons learned on a visit to ABC’s new drama about a group of unbelievably good looking doctors exorcising their personal demons by working in a rural clinic in an unnamed South American country.
For two days last week, ABC flew a group of reporters to interview the show’s cast on location in Hawaii. The set, about forty minutes away from Honolulu, felt like it was on a different planet from the modern luxury of Waikiki. It really was off the map. A van took visitors from a parking lot near a pineapple plantation down an unpaved road to the area viewers know as La Clinica. There was enough jungle foliage to make visitors feel like they have stumbled onto the “Lost” island.
In part, that’s because it actually is the “Lost” island. Not only were some of the locations used by the hit show, numerous crew members worked on the series and have the T-shirts to prove it.
According to Jonathan Castellanos, who plays the clinic’s teenage translator Charlie, at least one member of the “Lost” cast left behind some souvenirs. “There was this one prosthetic in the fifth season where they cut Jack open to get his abdomen [sic] out. I found the prosthetic in the wardrobe trailer. There’s these signs all over the trailers that say ‘I was once here.’ I hear the guy that played Charlie [Dominic Monaghan] put them up.”
“Off the Map’s” South American setting visually has little in common with the Oceanic 815 crash site. The show’s production designers have worked hard to create an authentic looking rural village. The clinic is not on a soundstage. It’s a real building, with an interior containing the examining rooms, the operating room and the office.
A short distance away are some of the village’s other buildings. More remote areas of the jungle, mountains and beaches are used for the sites of the show’s dramatic accident scenes. Not all is as it appears on television. A fountain’s beautiful blue water is actually foam.
As impressive as the sets are, the sexy, talented cast of “Off the Map” is the show’s main attraction. All of the actors clearly enjoy working together, chatting and laughing between takes. Everyone insists that Zach Gilford, who plays womanizing plastic surgeon Dr. Tommy Fuller, is the biggest joker on set. Rachelle Lefevre, (Ryan) and Caroline Dhavernas (Lily), both grew up in Montreal and occasionally communicate in French.
Though the cast is having fun, they are working as hard as real-life surgeons. When the press day began at 11:30AM, an emotional scene was taping on the outdoor set in front of the clinic. At 9:30PM, an intense operating room scene was still shooting. Jason George, who plays Dr. Otis Cole, explained why simulated surgery can take as long as an actual operation. “You have to understand the mechanics of shooting a scene. The O.R. is just a hole because you have to shoot what they call the master, which is the big, wide shot which has everybody. Then you come in close for everybody’s original coverage: my close-up, Martin [Henderson's] close up, Caroline [Dhavernas's] close-up, Rachelle [LeFevre's] close-up. The close-up of the people, the close-up of the prosthetic. There’s so many different shots… Friday becomes what we call Fraturday because we’re there until really early Saturday.”
Shooting in such a remote location also means that working conditions are not as cushy as a typical Hollywood set. There are lots of mosquitoes. Giant moths are drawn to the bright lights. Everyone uses big spray. The bathrooms are deluxe porta-potties. Chickens roam free, though the animal performer who plays Mina’s pet Dinner gets the star treatment. As the hour grows late, wild monkeys can be heard chattering in the distance. It’s just another day at the office for the cast and crew of “Off the Map.”