Food & Drink

Ottobar staff recall when 'VEEP' filmed at their bar

There's a lot of excitement for "Veep," the new political satire from Armando Iannucci, responsible for the great "In the Loop," and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

At the Ottobar, the staff will be watching the show closely, for the Charles Village venue was one of its several shooting locations in Baltimore.  In anticipation of the first episode April 22, they recall the day their bar was turned into The Labyrinth.

 Though the Ottobar will likely be featured in a scene not longer than five minutes, setting up for the shoot started early, at 8 a.m. on November 11., said owner Craig Boarman, head of security Cole Crick, and bartender Tecla Tesnau. 

"The set-up was pretty hectic," Tesnau said. "There was a plethora of people setting up lighting cables and rigs, wardrobe and makeup staffers. Not to mention prop and set-up crew painting a mural and pouring fake beers for the extras. Plus, all the security and catering folks.  It was truly an amazing display of controlled chaos"

The "Veep" crew transformed the Ottobar to play the part of The Labyrinth, a club where Timothy Simmons, who plays Jonah, a White House liaison, and a secondary, unnamed character had "a loud discussion of politics mixed in with some conversational humor," Crick said.

The discussion took place as the grindcore Washington D.C. band Magrudergrind, which has actually played the Ottobar several times, performed on stage.

To make it look like there was an actual crowd at the Ottobar during the day, producers hired a bunch of extras who waited patiently just a couple of doors down, Tesnau said.

"There were quite a bunch of interesting looking locals in that bunch" she said.

Filming started at around 5 p.m. The two actors in the scene talked from the middle of the mosh pit, while all the extras rocked out around them and "the band roared," Crick said.

"I have to admit some of the lines were pretty funny," Tesnau said.

It's a scene that recalls another in "In the Loop," where Anna Chlumnsky's character, Liza Weld, seduces the hapless Toby, played by Chris Addison, over beers at another heavy metal show. They're surrounded by House staffers and senators' interns who'll be "arguing noise reduction legislation" on the Hill the next day.

Neither Iannucci or Louis-Dreyfus made appearances at the Ottobar. "There weren't any actors of the super-famous variety milling about," Crick said. "No Tony Hale or Matt Walsh, even."

After 12 takes, shooting ended at around 7 p.m., Tesnau said. The clean-up took about four hours.

"It amazes me that a minute-long scene can take almost 16 hours to set up and shoot," Tesnau said. "Pretty epic effort."

Boarman said HBO didn't say when the episode featuring the bar will air, but he thinks it'll be the premiere.