Here’s Why ‘The Big Cigar’ Was Filmed In Toronto

By Louie Fecou
Published: May 20, 2024
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The Big Cigar Filming Locations Explained
The Big Cigar | Image via Apple TV+

The Big Cigar drew its inspiration from an article in Playboy Magazine (I only read it for the articles) that covered the real-life story of Huey P. Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panther movement who sought to find refuge from the authorities by heading off to Cuba. With a true story stretching between North and South America, of course The Big Cigar was filmed primarily in Toronto, Canada.

Canada is often used to capture the feel of the U.S. without the filming fees and is so widely used that it is often referred to as Hollywood North. Top talent and resources are available there and, more importantly, there is a financial advantage to filming there.

“Toronto is the world’s most tax competitive major city for business (KPMG Focus on Tax, 2016). Many of the incentives and tax credit programs offered are for film, television and digital media.

  • Tax incentives include stackable, as well as domestic and treaty co-production tax credits.
  • Various tax credits can be combined offering savings of up to 45% on qualified labour costs and up to 35.2% on total production costs.
  • The City of Toronto is advocating to maintain up to 33% long term tax incentive security with the Ontario Premier and with other levels of government.
  • There is no individual cap on the eligible credit per production or on the number of productions that can access the credits.
  • Credits are permanent and fully refundable.”

Other location work would take place in Hamilton, Ontario, where the City Hall doubled for San Francisco International Airport, and Turbaco and Cartagena in Columbia were utilized to replicate the landscape of Cuba. Janine Sherman Barrois would post some of the location work to Instagram, including some shots of where the work was done.

Production Timeline

The idea for the series developed as far back as 2012, and if you are familiar with how timelines work, it won’t surprise you to know that it went through a lot of different formats.

Originally The Big Cigar was intended to be a film, with the author of the original article, Joshuah Bearman, to co-write the screenplay with Jim Hecht. Sony Pictures were the interested party, but various setbacks would result in the project falling into development hell until AppleTV+ became involved, greenlighting the pitch to become a mini-series in April 2022.

Andre Holland was cast, soon after, and Don Cheadle was on board to direct the first two episodes and serve as an executive producer. More cast announcements followed in June — Tiffany Boone and Alessandro Nivola — and in July, PJ Byrne signed on.

In August other casting included Jordane Christie, Glynn Turman, and Olli Haaskivi.

Filming started in July 2022 continuing through August into September. A trailer would be revealed in April 2024, and the show dropped on AppleTV+ on May 17th, 2024, releasing episodes through to June 14th, 2024.

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