Seen on Screen: UMD’s Campus
‘Young Sheldon’s’ Doctored Aerial Shot of McKeldin Mall Just the Latest Example of the University on Film and TV
Fans of the CBS comedy “Young Sheldon” watching the kid genius head to nearby East Texas Tech might have thought the scenery looked familiar, even if they’ve never visited the Lone Star State.
Episodes chronicling Sheldon’s first day on campus on Feb. 15 and as recently as last week feature an aerial view of UMD’s McKeldin Mall—with a few adjustments. The sidewalks crisscrossing the lawn? Gone! The ODK Fountain’s pool has shrunk to make room for a flagpole, and then there’s the giant faux logo mowed into the lawn.
But it’s not the first star turn for the University of Maryland. The campus has been featured in a handful of movies and TV series over the years, drawing famous actors, Terps as extras and lots of gawkers. How many of these sound familiar to you?
“St. Elmo’s Fire” (1985)
The Brat Pack classic, starring Rob Lowe, Demi Moore and Ally Sheedy as Georgetown grads, was filmed in part on Fraternity Row. It filled in for the Jesuit institution’s campus after administrators there balked at some of the content in the script. More than 50 Terps were extras during a hot day of filming a touch football scene, while many more stood just swooned at Lowe. According to a Diamondback article, he emerged from his trailer wearing “nothing but an orange fluorescent tie and black glasses,” said theatre major Elizabeth Levitch. “He said casually, ‘Excuse me, Jackie, will you hand me my pants?’ He let out a big grin and went back inside.” (Photo courtesy of MOVIE-TOURIST.BLOGSPOT.COM)
The HBO satire’s cast and crew spent two weeks in October 2013 filming in the then-new Physical Sciences Complex, soon after stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale snagged Emmys for their second-season performances. Her character, Vice President Selina Meyer, and entourage tour a California tech company called Clovis, with the PSC standing in with the additions of funky furniture and palm trees. It wasn’t a big leap for the series to travel to College Park; the series was typically filmed on a Baltimore soundstage. (Photo courtesy of HBO)
“National Treasure II: Book of Secrets” (2007)
Co-stars Nicolas Cage (as the absurdly named treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates) and Diane Kruger and others visit his mother, a professor of American Indian languages at the University of Maryland during their quest to uncover the truth of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The Diamondback reported that the production company hired 165 extras, mostly students, for a scene filmed on McKeldin Mall. (Another scene was set in the Special Events Room of McKeldin Library.) Publicist Michael Singer was quoted as saying that the University of Virginia was the production’s first choice for that scene, but UMD was now playing itself. “It’s an extraordinarily beautiful, picturesque campus,” he said. (Photo by John T. Consoli)
“Species II” (1998)
According to IMDB, labs in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering lent veracity to a D.C. story that was already practically ripped from the headlines: A senator’s astronaut son returns from Mars possessed by an alien entity, turns into an otherworldly Don Juan and proceeds to create … lots of little aliens. Before you go looking for it on streaming services, you might want to consider just wandering around A. James Clark School of Engineering locales in search of the filming sites instead. This stinky sequel to the trashy, star-studded 1995 cult hit—Michael Madsen and Marg Helgenberger are back, while Alfred Molina’s and Ben Kingsley’s characters mercifully perished, and Forest Whitaker wisely passed—earned a universal thumbs down. (Photo courtesy of CINEPLEX.COM)
“Savage U” (2012)
The 12-episode MTV reality series starring popular sex columnist Dan Savage filmed its first episode in spring 2011 on the UMD campus. He hosted a Q&A, stopped by the University Health Center to encourage a student to get birth control, and called into WMUC. Baltimore Sun columnist David Zurawik wrote at the time, “Some of the questions voiced in assembly-hall or classroom group settings are of such a nature that even MTV uses bleeps. But these are questions that college students have about their bodies, their sexuality, their most intimate relationships, and it is refreshing to see them addressed on mainstream TV in such an intelligent and responsible manner." (Photo courtesy of MTV)
Chris Carroll contributed to this article.