Amazon series “Goliath” finds the old-school Santa Monica at retro hotel
by: Madeleine Pauker
The Ocean Lodge Hotel exists in four places at once.
The retro yellow and blue hotel near the Santa Monica Pier constructed in 1958 serves as a model for the replicas Amazon Studios has built on three different soundstages for its streaming series “Goliath,” which returns for a third season Friday.
“When I visited the set, it was incredible to see the hotel my father built recreated with so much attention to detail,” said owner Daniel Gregory. “I sometimes can’t tell the difference when I’m watching the show.”
“Goliath” follows Billy McBride, a formerly high-powered attorney who lives at the Ocean Lodge, as he rebuilds his legal career by taking on giant corporations and powerful billionaires. The character portrayed by Billy Bob Thornton hangs out at the neighboring Chez Jay, a storied bar and restaurant that was built around the same time as the hotel and also happens to be where creator David E. Kelley met his wife Michelle Pfeiffer.
Producer Derek Johansen said the Ocean Lodge was chosen because its original design and character remained intact even as luxury apartment buildings and hotels rose up around it.
“The first time we meet Billy’s character, you see all the brand new buildings surround this classic, two-story hotel that’s a throwback to what Santa Monica used to be,” Johansen said. “It’s the last stand of the old ways, and that’s a metaphor for who Billy McBride is as a character.”
Gregory was raised in the top floor of the hotel and started running it 40 years ago. His own son intends to follow in his footsteps, he said.
“I’ve added modern amenities and warp-speed wifi, but my whole M.O. was to preserve the building’s retro design,” he said. “It’s one of the last reminders of the sleepy beach town I grew up in.”
“Goliath” films both at the original Ocean Lodge and on soundstages around Los Angeles and in Raleigh, North Carolina. While season three takes Billy McBride away from Los Angeles and into the Central Valley to work on a case, Johansen said scenes of the city — and the Ocean Lodge — are scattered throughout the season.
“LA — Venice, Santa Monica, Downtown — was an inanimate character in our first two seasons,” Johansen said. “In the third season, Billy takes a case out in the Central Valley, which takes him away from the residual effects of what happened in LA at the end of season two.”
When the cast and crew come to Santa Monica for a two- to three-day shoot, manager Marisela Herrera serves as the site representative, helping to coordinate the crew and relocate guests who have booked rooms during the shoots to Loews, a luxury hotel across the street. (Amazon pays to relocate the guests, she said.)
Although the series might temporarily displace the Ocean Lodge’s guests, Gregory it has brought in plenty of new business.
“We get lots of guests that come because of the show all the time, and people take photos of the sign all the time,” he said. “People are starting to ask us if we sell merch.”