‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Does the Show Ever Film on Location in Seattle?

Almost every TV drama and sitcom takes place in a specific city, often making those locales popular tourist attractions through viewer imaginations. Some of those shows have made the settings so realistic, many viewers assume they film entirely on location. Most don’t, but it doesn’t keep fans from wishing they would.

Sometimes you find shows doing a little of both. Grey’s Anatomy is a good example of this and in convincing many viewers for years they truly film in Seattle.

It’s far from the only show we’ve seen set in Seattle, even if the others always broke a bit of the illusion. With Grey’s Anatomy, the only exception is the exterior photography for more legitimacy over other shows giving false impression the Space Needle is viewable from any location.

Grey's Anatomy
Ellen Pompeo on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Richard Cartwright/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

The show shoots real footage from Seattle without the actors

PopSugar recently jumped on this subject when readers asked if Grey Anatomy was really shot on-location in the Emerald City. They revealed that the production crew does film flyover shots of the city to bring a more convincing connection.

Plus, some exterior shots are done in Seattle with the actors only very rarely involved. For instance, Meredith Grey’s house is shown in many exterior shots, even if the interiors are done strictly on a sound stage in L.A. Also, the helipad you see from the fictional Seattle Grace-Mercy West Hospital is used for real in a specific Seattle area location.

None of this is unusual if you know anything about TV production. Many shows have done a similar procedure for decades, including sitcoms. Fifty or more years ago on TV, you could even find sitcoms convincing everyone a show’s setting was truly in New York City when entirely shot in a Hollywood network studio.

For Grey’s Anatomy fans, the skyline shots of Seattle play a big part in the appeal and how believable it is. We just wonder if any future shows will shoot on location since it’s becoming a growing production option.

Have any shows really shot on-location in the Pacific NW?

The answer to this question is a definitive yes, albeit further south than Seattle. No shows are currently filming in the streets of Seattle or in real locations there. Only past sitcoms like NBC’s Frasier would shoot exterior scenes in parts of Seattle without the actors involved. Regardless, most people didn’t find it believable Frasier Crane would be able to find an apartment with such a perfect view of the Space Needle when there isn’t one.

If you head south to Oregon, though, you’ll find bustling Portland where more and more TV shows are being filmed in the city. Perhaps the most famous of these are now defunct Portlandia starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.

A lot of what you saw in Portlandia is strictly fiction, yet everything was shot in Portland city districts, including inside real businesses.

Other shows you’ve seen shot in Portland include NBC’s popular Grimm and the crime drama Leverage. Both shows took place in Portland as well with real locales mentioned.

Outsourcing to other cities

Grey’s Anatomy obviously couldn’t shoot directly in Seattle since it would likely get in the way of commerce in the city, not including being inconvenient for actors based in Los Angeles.

Not that many actors don’t love living on-location other than Hollywood. All the actors involved with the above Portland productions loved living in P-Town, which they did through the entire show runs.

Whether we’ll ever see a show shot in Seattle is debatable since it all depends on whether Washington State considers filming a TV show a viable medium to help their economy. In Oregon, this is the initial goal of bringing Hollywood directly to places like Portland.

Before Grey’s Anatomy ends its run, hopefully, we’ll see the entire cast film some episodes in Seattle as a tribute to the city they’ve helped make more attractive than we already knew it was.