In the Netflix horror series HEMLOCK GROVE, the show has employed both constructed sets and on-location locales to create its fictional world of opulence controlled by the Godfreys. Every scene has to remind the viewer that Olivia and Roman Godfrey are wealthier than anyone can dream. So choosing how to portray their homes, offices and the White Tower medical institute, there has been an inordinate amount of thought given to what each should look like.
In a press interview from the set, production designer Drew Boughton briefly talked about what new locations will be seen in Season 2 and what was behind the decision to abandon the magnificent Godfrey mansion.
What does a production designer do?
DREW: I am responsible for designing the overall look of the production in terms of what’s physically constructed and also presenting locations where we can physically shoot the show and the logistics that go into making sure that I don’t present things that we cannot physically shoot in. So it’s an artistic thing and it’s a logistic thing. So it’s a combination of all those elements.
Since the show is no longer filming at the big mansion, what was the impetus behind choosing a cottage and how did you select it?
DREW: Our location manger, John Rakich, is very good. He presented us with the cottage. One of our logistics thing is last season we traveled a great deal for the show and what that means is it costs a certain amount of money to travel great distances to bring all the trucks and all the people. And we ended up with a very long distance between our two outer points of the radius of the show. So we wanted to shrink that a little bit and we also had the opportunity to with the circumstance of the family’s break up as we all saw last season. So we were able to take Olivia (Famke Janssen) out of the big house and put Roman (Bill Skarsgard) somewhere new as part of his change and the way his character is evolving. He’s written his mom off, which you will see in pretty spectacular detail this season. So that gave us the chance to put him somewhere else and put him in his own world, and also to take Olivia to a different place where she has to recover.
How do you decide between a physical location you go to versus just building a set?
DREW: It has a lot to do with what the camera needs to do. It has a lot to do with how long we’re going to shoot something. If it was a major dialogue scene and you’re going to shoot for a few days, then it makes good sense from a financial point of view to build a set on stage. If you’re going to do a stunt, like rip somebody’s head off, it’s a lot easier to do that if you can take a wall out. It’s where do we put the camera? That’s what usually causes it, it’s the need to get back for a wide shot of a moment or sequence, and then we’ll say that it really needs to be built.
So what were you looking for when you choose Olivia’s cottage?
DREW: We were looking for something that was consistent with their world. So something that gave us a little bit of the magic and the historic — not really fairytale, it’s nightmare history. Olivia has been around a long time. When someone is that old, and yet they are pretending to be young, their taste and their sensibilities and their clothes and their world is informed by that. So we were looking for something that takes her back in time. And you’ll see, we found something very beautiful for her.
How much of the sets and locations from Season 1 will we see in Season 2?
DREW: You’ll see some of the same things and you’ll see new stuff. Roman’s moved out and he’s now with unlimited resources. He’s moved into a house of his choosing and it is the opposite of the classic thing that Olivia would have. So you’ll see what his taste is. Imagine you’re his age and you have billions and you say, “I’m going to buy a house.” What is that going to be? What choices does he make? Which I think is really interesting for us as designers. It’s an opportunity to — as Chic Eglee said at the beginning of the season, there’s a “boys to men” quality to the season. These guys have left school and now they are out on their own. And Roman’s taken over the family business. It’s a big deal and he’s a kid. He’s just a kid. And now he’s got to step into this manhood and at the same time Peter has to do that. So it’s a big transition moment for the both of them. We’re finding ways to show that visually and I think you’ll be happy with what we have done.
What about the medical center at the White Tower? Has that been changed?
DREW: That has been changed. We moved it downstairs. As part of our restrategizing to make it better and to make it more achievable, we actually brought the medical center under our own roof.
To see how cleverly the show melded its sets with locations in Season 2, be sure to tune in on Friday, July 11th when the entire second season of HEMLOCK GROVE will be available for binge-viewing on Netflix.
(Editor’s note: Special thanks goes to Netflix which made this interview possible with a sponsored trip to the set of “Hemlock Grove.”)