An American TV show is making history in Cuba. Showtime's "House of Lies" is the first scripted American TV show to shoot on the island since the Cuban embargo began more than 50 years ago.
With travel restrictions easing and the reopening of the American embassy, Hollywood may be playing a role in improving relations between the two countries, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.
"House of Lies" spent an entire week in Cuba, shooting season five's season finale. The show stars Don Cheadle, and is about a group of morally-challenged business consultants.}
"Well, it's amazing and really takes the finale of our show to a place that we couldn't even imagine possible with a completely different look and ideas and different focus and tone," Cheadle said.
It was director Matthew Carnahan along with his wife - actress and director Helen Hunt - who wanted to bring the show to Cuba. But that's much easier said than done.
With the U.S. embargo still in place, the money to finance the shoot had to be wired through Canadian banks. U.S. credit cards also don't work, Wi-Fi is nearly non-existent and some of the production equipment had to be sent in from Germany.
Then there's the not-so-small matter of government censorship.
"You don't just come to Cuba and shoot whatever you want. They're very protective of the culture that they have here and a system that they have, so in order to be here today, we submitted a script and an outline months ago," said Jessica Borsiczky, the show's executive producer.
The Cuban government reviewed the script and gave approval at various stages. The producers also had to get permission from the U.S. government.
"Culture is a very important bridge builder as we forge this new relationship and so personally I think it's very important," said Ambassador Jeffrey Delaurentis, who is in charge of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. "We are receiving a lot of calls and a lot of visitors from different elements of the industry expressing interest."
Universal Pictures is currently trying to get permission to shoot a portion of "Fast and the Furious 8" in Cuba. But "House of Lies" got here first, and actress Kristen Bell has seen a lot of curious Cubans.
"It's a curious thing that we are doing because people are walking around with giant - you know it looks like 'Flight of the Navigator' -- cameras on their heads, and cars attached to other cars and, you know, a bunch of blondes," Bell said. "And it's interesting, people -- they stare, but they are quiet and cooperative and so hospitable."
One Cuban woman said she was glad the show came to her town because of U.S.-Cuban relations.
Cubans were also not just watching - they were hired as extras and members of the crew, and the cast took their jobs as U.S. cultural ambassadors quite seriously. The cast and crew seemed aware that even though they were shooting a TV show, the role they played with Cuban people was much more significant.
"There are many ways to sort of bridge that cultural divide so it's nice that we've been honored with being the emissaries of that," Cheadle said.