GQ – On set with Discovery’s star-studded new miniseries.
At the best of times, visiting a film set can feel like Take-Your-Journalist-To-Work Day—a bunch of friendly, overworked Hollywood professionals taking breaks from doing their actual work so they can explain it to a small group of interlopers. But there’s also something genuinely magical about walking onto a certain kind of set: a well-oiled and collaborative machine designed solely to create an illusion. You step off a plane, hop into a van, and emerge in the past—in this particular case, a defunct warehouse in Bucharest, Romania that has been painstakingly reworked to resemble a factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, circa the turn of the 19th century. I’m here, for a few days, to take a deep dive into the Discovery miniseries Harley & the Davidsons, a dramatized version of the origin of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company.
Your first question might be the same as mine: Why did they go all the way to Bucharest when the United States has a perfectly good Wisconsin just waiting to be used? The answer—like pretty much everything else about a film shoot—is both complicated and variable depending on the person you ask. On the surface, Bucharest and Milwaukee could hardly have less in common. The Communist takeover of the Romanian government in 1947—and the subsequent Communist overthrow in 1989—left Bucharest in a cultural and architectural deep-freeze. In the city center, you might pass a casino or a Gucci store and suddenly come across a dilapidated building covered by a massive tarp designed to resemble the facade of a building—a literal wallpapering over a problem until a more permanent solution can be devised.