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Black Mirror: Is San Junipero A Real Place?

When it comes to "Black Mirror" episodes, is there one as beautiful and life-affirming as "San Junipero"?

When the British sci-fi series moved over to Netflix with Season 3, creator Charlie Brooker became interested in telling his tall tales about the perils of technology on a much grander scale. With six episodes, Brooker turned Season 3 of "Black Mirror" into a viral sensation, making it one of Netflix's most popular shows in 2016. While the season was filled with iconic episodes like "Shut Up and Dance" and the fan-favorite "Playtest," Season 3 is primarily remembered for "San Junipero."

For fans of "Black Mirror," the Owen Harris-directed episode was a huge departure from the series' core premise. After all, the anthology series had become a sensation because of its cynical and paranoiac look at technology, warning viewers about the perils of being constantly connected. With "San Junipero," Brooker upended that entire narrative, suggesting that life, in one way or another, could benefit from the opportunities brought forward by technology.

In the Emmy-winning episode, Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) fall in love in the California beachside town of San Junipero. As their romance blossoms, it's revealed that their summer escapades are part of a simulated reality. A perfect oasis of youthful love and carefree attitudes, San Junipero is a heaven of sorts where the dead can upload their consciousness, allowing them a peaceful afterlife. While the episode is beloved for its raw and inspiring romance, it's also known for its sharp and arresting visuals, largely due to San Junipero's natural beauty. Those thinking that San Junipero is a real place that they can visit are in for disappointment. No, San Junipero can't be found in Southern California as the episode was filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, per The Daily Beast.

San Junipero was filmed in South Africa to keep costs down

Seeing as "San Junipero" is set in a typical Southern California town, one would assume that the creators would film their episode there. While Season 3 of "Black Mirror" is more global than previous seasons, largely in part due to its diverse (and American) cast, the series wasn't filmed in the United States. Key interior shots, such as those in nightclubs, were primarily filmed in London.

The exterior shots, which display the beauty of the fictional San Junipero, were filmed in Cape Town. The episode was filmed in South Africa to bring down costs, according to series producer Laurie Borg. "I knew we could not afford to film in the U.S., but also knew South Africa could deliver 'period' Americana streets and coastlines," Borg said about the episode in the book "Inside Black Mirror" (via Vulture). A number of other episodes from Season 3, including Bryce Dallas Howard's "Nosedive," were also filmed in South Africa.

While San Junipero isn't a real place, Charlie Brooker and the rest of "Black Mirror" team managed to make the fictional town feel as real and evocative as possible, immortalizing Kelly and Yorkie's relationship. For stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis, filming in South Africa was a key bonding moment — resulting in an experience that likely wouldn't have manifested if the episode had been filmed in California. "Cape Town was so gorgeous, and it was really special for me because I'm half South African—my Dad is from Pretoria—and it was the first time I got a chance to work in South Africa," Mbatha-Raw told The Daily Beast. "And actually Mackenzie's mother is from South Africa, so both of us have a South African parent and we got to do this together."

Charlie Brooker says a San Junipero sequel is possible

As it stands, "San Junipero" is one of the most popular and beloved episodes of "Black Mirror." Besides winning an Emmy, the romantic drama continues to top several Best "Black Mirror" episodes lists, including Looper's. While speaking with The AV Club, Gugu Mbatha-Raw discussed several reasons why the episode continues to be a fan favorite, pointing out how the blend of nostalgia and universal themes make it stand out. "And there's also that nostalgia for the '80s that everybody has—that music, the clothes [...] And the idea of mortality is something that's so universal—love that transcends time," Mbatha-Raw said. "I think that there's a lot that kind of works on you in your soul.

With such love and admiration for the episode, it wouldn't be surprising if Charlie Brooker and the rest of the creative team reunited for a sequel, tapping into a different story that dominates the quaint and beautiful world of San Junipero. While speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, Brooker opened up about the possibility of a sequel to the acclaimed episode, with one caveat: it would be outside of the box. "I think we almost might do it in a completely different form if we were doing a straight sequel, if that makes sense," Brooker teased. "Maybe not even as a normal episode."

While it remains to be seen if Brooker will ever return to the world of "San Junipero," it seems moot to revisit Yorkie and Kelly's story. Instead, it might be best to show a different, perhaps even toxic side to San Junipero, to juxtapose the duo's optimistic story.