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Production designer Tamara Deverell was tasked with creating eight different periods and working with eight different directors for Netflix’s “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities.”
The anthology series required Deverell, 2020’s artisan award recipient for production design, to tap into her love for building gritty sets and build everything from a brutalist architecture room inspired by her work on “Star Trek: Discovery” to using an old warehouse for an alien autopsy.
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Here Deverell breaks down some of her favorite sets from the series.
The first episode tells the story of Tim Blake Nelson as Nick Appleton, who purchases the titular Lot 36 from a recently deceased old man and discovers strange items such as a séance table and rare books. However, the Lot also holds dark demonic secrets
What were some initial conversations you had about the set build for this?
That was storage lockers gone crazy. We built the storage lockers. Because I had done “The Strain” with Guillermo, we had shot actual storage lockers. We had to build the storage lockers, and we kept that ceiling open so our DP could light the set.
That set was an endless maze and it was about aging. So we had areas of the lockers that were aged, some were grungy. But we were going for a monochromatic world.
What ideas did you have for the color world for the Locker realm?
We went with a very monochromatic world right until you get to Dottie’s (Lize Johnston) world. It gets into this saturated red once we were in the inner realm and inside the locker.
We built that pentagon table lacquered with human blood, but you never see that assembled. We built the Victorian hair that he finds in the locker, and those books were hand built.
“The Murmuring” is ultimately about grief as it follows Edgar and Nancy Bradley on their research trip to study dunlins. But Nancy who is a strong believer in science and refuses to belive in ghosts, ends up sighting unknown dead people. She struggles to try to ignore what she sees and hears in the house, but she can’t
Have we seen this house before?
We repurposed a set from “Scary Stories You Tell in The Dark.” But I did change a lot of things. We built the kitchen and turret room onto it. I don’t mind resuing sets as long as it works for the story.
Talk about the blue palette in the house and how you used that?
I had many conversations with our director Jennifer Kent about the wallpaper, and we ended up going through Morris & Co, ordering these beautiful wallpapers. We had a hard time deciding, but we ended up going for a very blue look. It seemed right for the story. She had done “The Babadook” and the set for that was all blue. I think she was having issues, but I tried to reassure her that maybe it was her color. So, we ended up doing all the trim, walls and wallpaper in different blue tones.
I feel it was one of the most beautiful of the eight. It was really a mother’s story of love and loss. Everyone says, the show is scary, and there are some gruesome bits. But that one in particular was beautiful and about the relationship about healing, nature and our relationship to nature with the birds.
The third episode explores the topic of an alien invasion. Small-town sheriff Nate Craven, played by Glynn Turman, finds himself investigating a string of mysterious disappearances, and learns there is a much more gruesome and macabre secret behind them.
What was the creative inspiration behind this set?
It actually took place on one set.
I was so pleased with the way it turned out. It had a lot of different textures and there was an ice room. It was this big room with a giant ceiling and skylights. The DP could come in and do big wide shots.
I’m such a gritty designer than a pretty designer so this was my perfect set because it was actually inside an existing old power factory that we often shoot in when we’re in Toronto. For this, we built the elevator and the mineshaft.
“The Viewing” follows four experts who are invited to a mansion. The experts are Charlotte (Charlyne Yi), Targ (Michael Therriault), Randall (Eric André), and Guy (Steve Agee) who focus on space and panspermia, ESP and spirituality, music and literature. The house is owned by the mysterious Lionel Lassiter, played by Peter Weller. While they’re experts in their fields, the other thing they have in common is they all have a public presence — something Lassiter draws on as he “welcomes” these unsuspecting visitors into his home.
This set feels very brutalist, can you talk about that design and inspiration?
Panos Cosmatos said he wanted to do brutalist. He had a series of meetings and I’d bring in my team. We’d meet and chat with him and we’d show him the models working on this crazy round room with the lights and tunnels.
His mother is an artist who does face sculptures. We replicated her work and put it around the room. The crazy chandelier in the ceiling was made from a bunch of pipes. That was something that resonated with me from my time working on “Star Trek” because I’ve done something similar with copper pipes.
The room was orange on orange.
What were your references for the room?
We had reference images of from the ’70s. We were looking at a lot of brutalist architecture, round rooms with sunken living rooms. Those are the main references. One of a pipe chandelier. I had done a pipe set on “Star Trek: Discovery” with Michelle Yeoh as Empress Georgiou and her alternate universe queen. I was using shades of Michelle Yeoh in a crazy pipe environment and he was pulling from his research and it all came together.
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