Emmys: On Set With 'Portlandia' and an Army of Fred Armisen Look-Alikes
This story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
There is a very good reason Portlandia shoots in the summer: You're almost guaranteed clear skies and dry streets. Such is the case on this (mostly) sunny afternoon on the Portland, Ore., set of the Lorne Michaels-produced sketch comedy series, which has creators and stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein filming a segment for its third season.
The Peabody- and Emmy-winning series beat out such elite company as The Colbert Report and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart for a coveted 2013 Writers Guild variety-series writing award. Last year, Portlandia scored an Emmy nomination for writing, edging out the Jimmys (Fallon and Kimmel) and late-night veterans Jay Leno and David Letterman. Add those kudos to season-three premiere ratings that jumped 30 percent -- to more than 1 million viewers -- compared to season two, and the show enters the Emmy race as a potent contender (and likely the only one on which organic quinoa is a staple of crew meals).
New Yorker Armisen, 46, who recently departed Saturday Night Live, and Brownstein, 38, a Northwest native and indie-rock guitarist, chose Oregon's largest city as the setting for their show about hipster culture upon the recommendation of IFC execs. Their experiment has reaped ongoing surprises. "Portland police officers once loaned us their cars to use in a sketch," Armisen says. "In what other city would that happen?"
Today, their alter egos (conveniently named Fred and Carrie) can't escape the city's DIY art scene. "Wherever we go, we run into some form of an art project," says Armisen. Not 15 minutes into filming, a homeless man pushing a shopping cart filled with bottles makes a racket. "Can someone ask our neighborhood recycler to be quiet, please?" asks a crewmember with signature Portland politeness. Armisen smiles. "I take my cue from Lorne," he says. "I really want to take good care of this show."