The Most Memorable Toronto locations filmed in CBC’s new series Sort Of
It’s a rare jewel: a TV show shot in Toronto that actually takes place in Toronto. Even better? A show that is proudly, defiantly Toronto, CN Tower shots and all.
TO is also famous for being one of the most diverse cities in the world, and CBC’s new series Sort Of (now streaming on CBC Gem, CBC’s streaming service) has a modern main character and star that highlights this: Sabi Mehboob (played by Bilal Baig), a gender-fluid nanny-slash-bartender navigating the twists and turns of twenty-something life, a deliciously dry deadpan sense of humour helping them through one crisis after another. Baig—themselves South Asian and trans-feminine—co-created this heartfelt show alongside Queer as Folk alum Fab Filippo and was excited to shoot the show in their hometown of GTA—and have Toronto play itself.
“For me, it captures the experience of all of Sabi’s different worlds. Toronto’s the place where they all come together and weave in and out of each other: the nanny world, the queer and trans world through the bar, the Pakistani family world,” they say. “I think that’s so important for Sabi’s journey—this had to be the city for it.”
Filippo agrees. “The intersectionality in this show is purely Toronto,” he says. Thankfully, our fair city has plenty of locales—courtesy of Sort Of locations manager Chris Martin—to bring Sabi’s adventures to life. Whether it’s an awkward dinner at a swanky King Street West resto or slinging drinks at a queer space on Queen Street. Folks well beyond our borders will get to enjoy our scenery, too; the show will be airing on HBO Max in the United States, along with the UK, Australia, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Poland and the Baltics. Check out some of the more fun filming locations below to get a feel for the warm, wonderful world of Sort Of:
The Kaneko-Bauer House: High Park
Fab: It’s right by High Park and has that west-end feel. When you’re shooting locations, they need to be big to get a good depth of field and to allow movement for characters, and this house has the balance of the space and size without seeming ostentatious or insufferably upscale, so we totally fell in love with the house, and then we were looking around and explored the neighbourhood, it felt exactly right. I’m glad they ended up being a west-end family.
7ven’s Art Gallery: General Hardware Gallery, Parkdale
Bilal: I love that it’s in Parkdale; that felt really right. I lived in Parkdale for four years and it wasn’t so much about the space internally, because we kind of really swapped it out for the things we needed, but just the feel of it.
Fab: And I loved that we got to use the actual name of the art gallery. Any time we were able to do that was just great. And then just that big front window, and shooting against that: shooting 7ven on the phone, talking against the big window and seeing Queen Street go by? Loved it.
The Kids’ School: Saint Veronica Catholic School, 30 Bank St.
Fab: I’ve shot at this school as an actor! This school gets used often [on television], and it was amazing to be able to do this show there as well; directing in that location was really fun for me.
True Luv Restaurant: Oretta, King Street West
Bilal: This location is a clue because if you tune into the relationship between Sabi and Lewis, [you’ll notice that] it had been fracturing well before we met them in that first scene. In my head, it was Sabi who thought that Lewis would like this [restaurant], and I think that’s a good clue into where those two were with each other—trying to make it work, but not quite working.
Fab: Yeah, just the fact that Sabi would choose a restaurant on King West was so un-Sabi in every way.
Raffo’s House: Mississauga
Bilal: Well, the journey to finding this house took some time. Everyone kept asking me: what does that house need to feel like, and what is in your head when you’re thinking about it? What I loved was that it felt like it was the only home that Sabi’s mom had gotten to know. The location itself is in Mississauga, but it’s important to know that Sabi’s mom lives in Rexdale.
Aqsa and Sabi’s apartment, and Lewis’ apartment: Little Portugal
Bilal: Sabi and Aqsa are so different. They argue a lot and don’t agree, taste-wise, on furniture, and I think that was important [to be reflected in this apartment]. I still remember there was this gold tray you put drinks on when guests are over. That felt like Aqsa: she has people over and needs to make it feel elegant, while Sabi likes weird colours and mismatched things. I just loved that conversation in bringing those two together and having that be represented in this space.
Hospital: North York General Hospital
Fab: There’s a whole wing of the hospital that is empty and you can shoot there, and it’s incredible. It had massive significance because it used to be Branson Hospital, and the first time I had any kind of surgery—I grew up in that area—I was 17 and I had a bilateral polypectomy for polyps in my nose, and I had surgery on those floors where we were shooting.
Bar Bük: Queen Street West
Bilal: Glad Day Bookshop was a huge inspiration. It was this mishmash of wanting the look of Glad Day but the patron feel of The Beaver. Rest in peace, Beaver. But that’s where you get the freaks of the queer community, and I wanted those things to come together in one space.
Fab: That was just a space, and it got transformed by Chris Crane, our production designer, and the team.
7ven’s house: North York
Fab: The front door at 7ven’s parents’ house was a beast that was loud when you shut it. It was made of vibranium (geek joke). Like the house literally shook. We were terrified to aggravate the neighbours in any way — especially since we were in the middle of a pandemic and we felt a responsibility to be extra careful everywhere we shot. People were never that happy to have a film crew walking around in their neighbourhood. In any case, literally, every scene at the front door of that house involved 7ven slamming it on Sabi’s face. Amanda (who plays 7ven) trying to take my direction and “slam the door quietly” was pretty amazing…even though she likely wanted to kill me.
Bilal: It’s a bit harder with this one because we fell in love with another location first. I don’t want to diss the house we shot at, but we shot a party scene there, and the number of people we were allowed to have in the house [due to COVID restrictions] kept fluctuating daily, so by the time we got there, it was just pure mayhem. Someone’s job was to stand outside the door, count the number of people who would go in, and when someone would go in, they had to get rid of somebody, so that another person could go in.
Sort Of is debuting in Canada on October 5 on CBC Gem, and will also broadcast on CBC TV beginning November 9 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT).