Beverly Hills, Calif. • Fifteen years ago, the cast of “Everwood” arrived in Utah to start production on the first season of that television family drama — and, boy, were they glad.
“It was a great feeling, knowing we were going to go to Utah instead of up in the middle of the [Canadian] mountains,” said Treat Williams, who starred as Dr. Andy Brown, speaking at a 15th show anniversary reunion panel before television critics earlier this summer in Beverly Hills.
Only the first of the 89 episodes of “Everwood” was not filmed in Utah. The pilot was produced in Calgary, Alberta, during a record-breaking cold spell. The temperature hit 40 below.
Williams recalled that the crew had to “scrape away about 2 feet of snow for a little patch of dirt” to film a scene in which Nina (Stephanie Niznik) was planting a garden.
Vivien Cardone (Delia Brown) said it was so cold that when her eyes watered, her eyelashes froze. “I brushed my eyes, and all my lashes broke off like little icicles,” she said.
It was considerably warmer when they began filming in Utah. Temperatures hit 110 the first week of production in July 2002 — a difference of 150 degrees. Not coincidentally, the second episode included a storyline about the Fall Thaw Festival in Everwood.
Eleven years after it went off the air, “Everwood” is experiencing something of a revival. It’s featured on the free, online streaming service CW Seed, where it’s getting a second look from fans and a first look from a generation too young to watch it the first time around.
As the series began, Andy Brown, a renowned New York neurosurgeon, lost his wife in a car accident. He and his 15-year-old son, Ephraim (Gregory Smith), and 9-year-old daughter, Delia, moved to the quirky mountain town of Everwood, Colo. — played by Park City, Draper and Ogden, primarily.
Andy and Ephraim battled constantly, although they clearly loved each other. And creator/executive producer Greg Berlanti — just 29 at the time — said the starting point for the series came when he imagined what would happen “if my father, who I knew so much less than I knew my mom, had suddenly been left to raise me. Would he have given up everything to just focus on me?”
Andy was often in conflict with the town’s other doctor, Harold Abbott (Tom Amandes), and Ephraim quickly fell for Abbott’s daughter, Amy (Emily Van Camp). After initial conflict, Ephraim became best friends with Bright Abbott (Chris Pratt, in one of his first roles).
The cast of almost every TV series claims to be “like family,” but in the case of “Everwood” it certainly seems to be true. The actors clearly remain fond of each other and have a shorthand as they reminisce.
“When I moved to Utah, I was 9 years old,” Cardone recalled. “I didn’t even know there was a state called Utah. And I up and moved with just my mom and my siblings, and I really didn’t know anyone. I had no friends. It was a completely different environment, and so I really looked at this whole group as my second family.”
Her father stayed back in New York to run his business, “and Treat came up to me, and he said, ‘I’ll make a deal with you. … If you promise to be my temporary daughter, I’ll be your temporary father.’ And that bond has stayed ever since.”
“Still making us cry,” Williams said — and he wasn’t the only one with tears in his eyes.
Berlanti has become one of the most successful TV producers in Hollywood. He has six series returning this season (“Arrow,” “Blindspot,” “The Flash,” “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Riverdale,” “Supergirl”) and two more (“Black Lightning” and “Deception”) that will premiere at midseason.
The “Everwood” reunion was “an emotional day for me,” said Berlanti. “I’ve been really proud to work on a lot of things I’ve worked on since, but I think probably people that know this show probably know me better, in that way. It was very personal.”
“Everwood” didn’t shy away from much of anything. It dealt with death, family strife, surrogate pregnancy, outbreak of STDs among teens, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, teens losing their virginity, coming out as gay, genetic diseases and sexual harassment — just to name a few.
And, a decade-and-a-half later, the episodes hold up.
“I wish that some of the things that we were dealing with weren’t as hot-topic still,” Berlanti said. “In some ways, maybe some of those are even more relevant.”
Amandes said the “Everwood” scripts contained “some of the finest and bravest writing that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working on.”
In what Berlanti called the show’s “most provocative episode,” a father brought his teenage daughter (Kate Mara) to Andy seeking an abortion. It turned into a thoughtful examination of the issue, with left-leaning Andy and right-leaning Harold taking surprising stances.
“In the original pitch of ‘Everwood,’ Dr. Brown was actually supposed to be an abortionist,” Berlanti said. “It was part of why the studio didn’t think it would sell. But the network had promised us that if we got people in the tent, that we could deal with that subject matter.”
There’s an argument to be made that “Everwood” was ahead of its time. NBC’s “This Is Us” bears more than a passing resemblance to the old WB show — a three-generational family drama that could make you laugh and make you cry.
“Everwood” even features flashbacks … although not anything close to the multiple timelines on “This Is Us.”
“It was like they were getting a chance to do something that I think was so important for television,” said Justin Baldoni (“Jane the Virgin”), who joined the cast in the final season. “They were telling stories that mattered, stories that were from the heart but that then hit the heart.”
“Everwood” was one of Baldoni’s first acting jobs, “and they embraced me like I was there the whole time” and “set the tone” for “what a family was like on set.”
For the younger cast members, “Everwood” was both an “acting master class” and a series of life lesson, said VanCamp — who turned 16 just before she came to Utah and has gone on to star in two hit TV series (“Brothers & Sisters” and “Revenge”) and co-starred in the second and third “Captain America” movies.
The show “really informed all of the later decisions I would make in my career,” she said. “I just feel so fortunate also that I got to learn all of those things in Utah.”
VanCamp recalled going to Los Angeles for press events and observing other young actors. “I was, like, ‘I’m happy to go back to Park City.’ It gave us a chance to grow in this industry but sort of look at it all from afar.”
There was no small degree of irony that the “Everwood” reunion was engineered by The CW, and that episodes of the series are streaming on CW Seed. “Everwood” aired on The WB, and when that network merged with UPN, the then-management of The CW canceled “Everwood.”
“We’re all just here because we want an answer, I think,” VanCamp joked.
The cast and producers all agreed that they weren’t ready for the show to end after four seasons.
“I’m ready to go on Season 5,” Williams said.
Just don’t hold your breath.
“No one has asked, but I think we all would love to work together again,” Berlanti said.
“In a New York minute,” Williams added.