Roy Christopher, the multiple Emmy-winning production designer behind numerous awards shows as well as “Murphy Brown,” “Frasier,” and “Wings,” died on Feb. 2. He was 85.
A rep confirmed to Variety that Christopher died in his sleep.
Nelson Coates, President of the Art Director’s Guild said, “Roy Christopher was a legendary designer & gentleman who consistently raised the bar for excellence in production design through his career and by mentoring of the next generation of designers. He was a major influencer on popular culture and the visual presentation of our industry to the world.”
After graduating from California State University Fresno in 1957, Christopher began his career as an art director, working on “The Name of the Game” in 1970. That same year, he would work on “Jack Benny’s 20th Anniversary TV Special,” and in 1979, Christopher landed the job of art director at the Oscars, creating the concept design behind the 51st Annual Academy Awards.
Christopher segued into production design in the late ’70s and worked on designing the sets for 1986’s 58th Annual Academy Awards “Wings” and “Murphy Brown.”
As he continued to work on creating the look of the Academy Awards, Christopher worked on over 16 Oscars telecasts, setting a record for any production designer. And it was in that field of designing that he would leave his legacy.
Christopher would often begin his process of designing the sets for the telecast before a host would be announced. He would watch TV while he sat with a pad and his Pentel pen.
Christopher frequently collaborated with producer Gil Cates on ways to keep the Oscars fresh. Oftentimes, he presented between 200-300 thumbnail sketches as they formulated ideas for the show. Christopher was the mastermind behind Chris Rock’s space-age look for the 77th Academy Awards, and the following year he went retro, “like old movie theaters.”
Throughout his career that spanned five decades, he received 37 Emmy nominations and won 10. In 2017, the Television Academy inducted Christopher into their Hall of Fame.
In an interview with the Television Academy, Christopher said, “I’d like to teach designers how to read a script, how to break it down, how to think. What they’re really paying for is your mind. They want you to be able to take verbal stuff, written stuff, and translate it into verbal terms — that’s an art. Open your mind to that. Read a poem and paint it.”
Christopher’s distinguished career was recognized by his alumni in 2007 when he received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Fresno State and the California State University.
Throughout his career, Christopher had a love for theater. He designed the sets for “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” which starred “Frasier’s” David Hyde Pierce at the Geffen Playhouse, and he was the mastermind behind the sets of “110 In the Shade” when that opened at the Pasadena Playhouse.
The veteran was honored by the Art Directors Guild in 2004 with a Lifetime Achievement Award, celebrating his career and work.
He is survived by his wife, Dorothy.
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