The entrance to Armory Studios in Schenectady was transformed into a carnival-like set Tuesday morning, complete with food trucks, balloons and an ominous clown.
The festive scene was a part of HBO Max’s “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin,” which began filming in Schenectady on Tuesday. Signs on the front of the Armory read Carousel,” “Ferris Wheel,” “Mirror Fun House” and “Millwood Fall Carnival.” Extras were filmed heading into the Armory, the facade of which was decorated to look like the yawning mouth of a clown. On either side of it, rows of red balloon garland danced in the wind. Food trucks and carts selling candy apples, fried dough and other fair food were seen just outside the Washington Avenue building.
It’s a suitably mysterious set for the show, which is an iteration of the popular coming-of-age thriller/drama series “Pretty Little Liars,” which premiered in 2010. Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Lindsay Calhoon Bring, “Original Sin” features new characters and takes place in a new town, according to Deadline.
“Twenty years ago, a series of tragic events almost ripped the blue-collar town of Millwood apart,” Deadline reported. “Now, in the present day, a group of disparate teen girls — a brand-new set of Little Liars — finds themselves tormented by an unknown Assailant and made to pay for the secret sin their parents committed two decades ago, as well as their own.”
Some of the cast members include Chandler Kinney, Bailee Madison, Maia Reficco, Malia Pyles, Zaria, Mallory Bechtel and Sharon Leal, as well as Niskayuna native Gabriella Pizzolo.
Pizzolo, 18, has had an impressive acting career so far. She’s performed on Broadway in “Matilda” and “Fun Home.” More recently, she played Suzie in the latest season of “Stranger Things” on Netflix.
In “Pretty Little Liars,” she takes on the role of Angela Waters, a lonely teen who is desperate to fit in, according to The Wrap. She’s bolstered by a group of alluring young girls but soon finds that that friendship comes at a cost.
It wasn’t clear on Tuesday whether or not Pizzolo would be included in any of the scenes filmed in Schenectady. However, there will be plenty of locals featured as extras in the show. When a call for extras was announced earlier this year, the casting company was looking for 300 people. More than double that number applied.
“The response was terrific with people wanting to participate,” said Schenectady Film Commissioner Donna Pennell.
“There has been outstanding support from the city, county and community.”
Many of the extras were seen on Tuesday afternoon entering Armory Studios. The cavernous building, which stretches over 90,000 square feet, is the production’s home base while in Schenectady. It’s complete with two stages, as well as production offices, a scenic/construction shop, craft services, green rooms and more. It’s also a state-qualified 35% tax credit production facility.
Beyond “Pretty Little Liars,” it’s recently been the home base for several other TV series and films, including Amazon Prime’s “Modern Love” Season Two and Showtime’s “Three Women.”
“The magic is back!” said Ray Legere, co-owner of Armory Studios. “Within about a year‘s time, we have hosted three big names in film, Amazon Prime, Showtime and HBO but we didn’t do it alone. It takes a village; Metroplex, [the] City, and County of Schenectady [have] made good on their saying ‘We solve problems instead of making them’ by helping coordinate permitting, logistics with fire and police which is no easy task when moving, feeding and housing a large production.”
He went on to credit Pennell for her work in helping production companies “navigate the minutia of bringing 150 cast and crew into a location for the whirlwind activity called film production.”
Filming for “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin” will continue in Schenectady this week.
“It’s truly rewarding to bring productions into Schenectady,” Legere said. “I can’t wait for the next one!”