'Chuck' lived it up in old H'wood

El Cabrillo apartments' star turn in pilot one for ages

For a guy who works at a Best Buy-esque store, geek-turned-spy Chuck Bartowski on NBC's "Chuck" sure lives in high style — in the famous El Cabrillo apartment building in Hollywood.

When making the pilot, creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, along with pilot director McG, set out to find a courtyard apartment location that was reminiscent of old Hollywood/Echo Park. The locations department, managed by Robert Karpman in conjunction with production designer CeCe Destafano, producer Paul Marks and McG, researched and scouted several courtyard and bungalow apartments from the 1920s before deciding on the El Cabrillo on Grace Avenue in Hollywood.

The building, designed and built in 1928 by celebrated period architects Arthur and Nina Zwebell, is steeped in old Hollywood lore, and it's alleged that a Rudolph Valentino movie used the Spanish revival courtyard building as a set. For decades, the building was an apartment complex but recently was restored and converted into condos by Xorin Baldes.

The makers of "Chuck" liked the El Cabrillo because it "offered many interesting textures — concrete blocks, wood-spindle balconies, private balconies, an impressive interior courtyard turret and a courtyard fountain," said location manager Kelly Harris, "and provided an amazing background for our characters to interact."

When shooting the "Chuck" pilot at the El Cabrillo, the production's biggest concern was the neighbors in the high-density Hollywood area. To minimize the overall impact, the production parked the majority of its trucks in local lots and only brought in essential equipment.

Alas, Chuck does not live at El Cabrillo anymore. Not exactly, anyway.

In the pilot, Chuck's apartment comprised several units at the El Cabrillo, and it was unfeasible to continue shooting at the complex. Thus, the apartment and the building's courtyard were re-created on Stage 4 on the Warner Bros. lot.

"Re-creating the location onstage gives us the freedom to shoot Chuck's apartment at any time and in many different ways," Harris said. "(It) allows us to create an environment that is very film-friendly."