It’s not often that drawing a sex toy will land you an Emmy nomination.
As the production designer for the pilot of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” about the lives and loves of sex researchers Virginia Johnson and William Masters, Andrew Jackness and his team were charged with bringing 1950s St. Louis to life — from their living arrangements and the cars they drove to some of the, ahem, props they might have used.
“Ulysses was the hardest prop to figure out,” Jackness said of the name used on the show for the giant glowing member that was meant to be both a magnifying glass and a stimulant aid for the female participants in Masters and Johnson’s study. “They destroyed all their notes and research. It was hard to figure out what to go on.”
So Jackness had to get creative. “We used a camera made out of acrylic,” explains Jackness. “I figured I was more capable of drawing (the sketch) than anyone else.”
While not everything had to be built from scratch (or require such creative endeavors), Jackness stressed that all the props, especially the medical equipment, did have to work, He relied on property master Scott Getzinger, who sought out collectors of period machinery that could be restored to working order.
They also had to find classic cars that fit each character’s personality and had to scour the area around the pilot’s New York filming location for an Eichler style house that would match what Jackness knew of Masters’ home at the time, and hospitals and medical offices that still had mid-century designs.
“When you start a show, there’s usually one set that you think you’ll never find,” said Jackness. “I said I think we’ll have to build a two-story operating room. Of course, that was the first set we found.”
He had to set the tone and color scheme of the show, while also paying proper homage to the era’s interior design trends for both homes and offices. The idea with any period, he says, is to give a complete sense of era using color and shape and textures.
“The (colors at that time) were not as bright as the ’60s colors,” Jackness said. “They were deep rich teals and greens and browns, with pockets of red and orange and warmer colors.”
But he also had to be conscious of the show’s subject matter. “There are a lot of bodies and white uniforms, and blue is just a good color for flesh,” he said. “For the sex scenes, I thought it was a very flattering color.”