By: Jo Berry
Netflix has adapted the Harlan Coben bestselling novel The Innocent into an eight-part series, starring Mario Casas as ex-prisoner Mateo Vidal, who discovers secrets, lies, corruption and murder after his wife Olivia (Aura Garrido) disappears while on a business trip.
While the book was set in New York, New Jersey and Nevada, the Spanish-language adaptation by writer/director Oriol Paulo moves the action to Spain, with Barcelona as the main location, alongside nearby towns such as Sabadell, Tarrasa, Granollers and Manresa.
The mix of beautifully classic and strikingly modern architecture in Barcelona makes a perfect backdrop for a story in which no one is quite who they appear to be, as Mateo finds himself implicated in a new crime and police detective Lorena Ortiz (Alexandra Jiménez) investigates a nun’s murder that may be linked to Mateo or his wife.
Where is Netflix’s The Innocent filmed?
Director Paulo has transferred the action of Harlan Coben’s New York-set novel to the streets of Barcelona.
It was a change that writer Coben was happy with, as he explained to Variety last month: “I look at it like I’ve written a hit single called ‘The Innocent’. So, if I wrote, sang and recorded the song, I don’t want any covers or remakes to sound exactly like my version. I want the new version to bring new culture and a new sound, and I think that’s what works best.”
“I also think it’s important to realise we’re living in a Golden Age for international television. So, in working with the best talent wherever I go, I get to make something better than it might have been otherwise.”
Much of the action as Mat tries to find Olivia takes place on residential streets in the Eixample neighbourhood that is less known to tourists, but fans of the Catalonian city will nonetheless recognise some Barcelona landmarks.
Mat and Sonia, the mother of the man Mat accidentally killed outside a bar, regularly (and secretly) meet at MNAC – the stunning Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. One of the most recognisable locations in the series, the museum was built for the International Exposition in the city in 1929. Set in the beautiful Montjuic area of Barcelona, both the outside of the stone building – featuring a dome modelled on the one at St Peter’s in the Vatican – and the interior gallery spaces were used.
As we discover later in the drama, Mat isn’t the only one having secret meetings – Olivia has had her own weekly secret rendezvous at another attraction in the city – Barcelona Zoo, which is in the Parc de al Ciutadella, not far from the beach. She and Mat are also separately seen at Barcelona’s El Prat airport.
There are some other locations in the Catalan city to spot, too. Lorena and special crimes unit officer Aguilar are often seen driving along the autovia (motorways) on the outskirts of Barcelona and many of these scenes were filmed in the L’Hospital de Llobregat area that is recognisable for its distinctive modern red tower block, seen in the distance. The stunning 28-storey skyscraper, which has won design awards for its unusual look, is home to the Hotel Porta Fira and is the fifth tallest building in the city.
And the hotel where Olivia is held by bad guys Gallardo and Saez? The characters mention it is the Hyatt Regency, and that was exactly the location used for the exterior and lobby scenes. Built in 2006, the hotel is also in L’Hospital de Llobregat, an area under regeneration that is becoming the new financial centre of Barcelona.
The Innocent boarding school and neighbourhood locations
Early on in the drama, a nun falls to her death at the imposing boarding school that detective Lorena Ortiz attended when she was young. Suspecting the nun was pushed out of a window, Lorena goes to investigate and discovers the dead nun has links to Mat and Olivia.
The stone building used as the boarding school is actually a convent in real life – the Convent de Sant Francesc in Berga, less than two hours north of Barcelona. The corridors, cloister and exterior are all used in the series.
Meanwhile, scenes featuring the upmarket area where Mat and Olivia look to move to in the first episode were filmed in the municipality of Sant Cugat del Vallés, near Collserola Natural Park.
In an interview with Spanish website Guía Respol, executive producer Sandra Hermida explained how each location was carefully chosen to give more information about the characters. “The locations provide a socio-economic and cultural dimension to each of the characters,” she said. “Each one lives or moves in different worlds… a police world in more conflictive areas, or an aspirational residential area.”
The production team also preferred using real places rather than sets to tell the story – including the Puig de les Basses Penitentiary Center near Figueres, Girona, which was used as the prison where Mat spent four years. “We did not have nor did we build sets,” said production director Marta Sánchez. “Everything that is seen in the series are totally natural locations that we later adapt. I think that give the series richness, although on the other hand, it entailed a logistical complexity [obtaining filming permits etc].”
Where were the Marbella scenes in The Innocent filmed?
The production team didn’t relocate to the Costa Del Sol’s famously elite resort of Marbella to film the scenes set there.
The glimpses of the beach, port and Marbella camping ground where Kimmy lives were actually recreated closer to Barcelona in the Maresme region, north of the city. Costa Brava holiday locations in Lloret de Mar and Pol de Mar were used, as was the beach area at Playa del Mansou near Mataró for the scene where Mat and Olivia first meet.