The city of Sierra Madre, a tiny hamlet situated about seven miles east of Pasadena, is often called “Mayberry,” a reference to the small town at the heart of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Quaint, charming and altogether sleepy, the borough famously lacks even a single traffic light, with the downtown consisting of a sole block of storefronts. Seemingly frozen in time from a much simpler era, the area is known for its Anywhere, U.S.A. appeal, yearly Wistaria festival, traditional homes . . . and an Italian villa? Yes, as incongruous as it may seem, tucked into the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains sits a gorgeous Italianate estate that looks ripped right off the shores of Positano!
A longtime favorite of location scouts, the property is currently being featured on the second season of “The Morning Show” as the supposed Lake Como villa where disgraced former news anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) is hiding out after being fired following allegations of his continued sexual abuse coming to light.
Showrunner Kerry Ehrin told The Hollywood Reporter that banishing Kessler to Bel Paese felt like a natural fit for the Apple TV+ series’ sophomore season, which takes place from January to March 2020. “Seeing those beautiful films from Italy of people singing on their balconies, because that happened right before COVID hit here, seemed like a great place to tell a little bit of the pre-story of COVID. Also, you think about disgraced film directors who go live in Europe. And I thought that all seemed to fit into the story that we were telling.”
With travel restrictions and pandemic safeguards firmly in place at the time of filming, venturing to Northern Italy for the shoot was not a viable option. So the production team instead chose to capture Mitch’s scenes much closer to home, utilizing some carefully crafted CGI to convincingly fake Los Angeles for Italy.
Downtown L.A.’s historic Pico House pops up as the piazza where Mitch is accosted by a young tourist for spoiling her gelato in episode two, “Just Like the Flu.” (The same locale also stood in for Bourbon St. in “The Morning Show’s” season two premiere.) The former anchor grabs a drink and watches a soccer match at Mediterranean restaurant Le Grand, also in DTLA. And the stunning cliffside dwelling where Mitch spends most of his days is Sierra Madre’s famed Villa del Sol d’Oro, located at 675 W. Highland Ave. In real life, the singular property is part of Alverno Heights Academy, a private Catholic school serving students from transitional kindergarten through 12th grade. (Please remember this is an active learning institution. Do not trespass or disturb the students in any way.)