×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s’ Production Designer Is an Actual Practicing Pagan

It’s common for actors to talk about the similarities they share with their characters — and it’s a clever publicity tool to unite the two in the audience’s eyes. But Lisa Soper, the production designer for Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” can play that game too. After all, on her Twitter page she calls herself a “production designer and evil lady.”

Who better than an actual self-described practicing pagan, who was born on Halloween and has credits such as “Awakening the Zodiac,” “Paranoid” and “The Dark Stranger,” to develop the scenic world of a show about a teenage half-witch grappling with whether she can leave her mortal life behind to fully embrace her destiny with the Dark Lord?

Still, the new series — which premieres Oct. 26 — isn’t as ghoulishly dark and gory to look at as one might expect. Its decor is grounded in autumnal earth tones of browns, greens and reds, such as the foreboding shadows of moss in the forest where star Kiernan Shipka’s eponymous Gen Z character spends a good deal of her time, or an ornate set-piece early in the season featuring a hulking, veiny tree that teases the perfect ruby apple.

“Color, for me, is so important because it gives us an emotional response,” Soper says. Simply looking at a color wheel, she explains, will show that red and green are oppositions and are therefore “going to get a reaction.”

Soper notes that in “Sabrina,” “each character has a color that can be associated with them.” (Sabrina actually has two: red and white.) Each character is also paired with a tarot card. All of this is cataloged in what Soper calls her “very long-winded 100-page bible” for the show, which she dutifully doles out to set decorators and others on the production team.

Another integral part of the plot, and one that’s not always obvious, is the crooked, winding labyrinth of a house where Sabrina lives with her full-blooded witch aunts and cousin. Soper says she was inspired by the infamously never-ending Winchester House in San Jose, Calif., as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The House of the Seven Gables” and horror stories by H.P. Lovecraft.

“There’s not one straight wall in my set, which I know is really difficult for my construction team,” Soper admits. Even the entryway’s split stairway is symbolic, she says, because “Sabrina’s always faced with choosing between the path of light or the path of night.  … The witch’s side is the left side. Depending on what we have going on or who is coming to dinner, it’s playing with these subtleties.”

Fog is also used for an explicit purpose, Soper says, meant to connote fear. But it’s also a throwback to Sabrina’s (and Soper’s) lineage.

“You look at these references of witches and pagans in history and in Renaissance paintings, [and] quite often there’s this low-lying fog,” Soper says. “I do have memories of walking through the woods at that age, at that time of day, because that’s when the spirits are accessible. That’s when our world is more vulnerable. That’s when you can’t quite see through the veil.”

More Artisans

  • Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by

    Why 'Missing Link's' Title Character Was One of Laika's Biggest Challenges

    Stop-motion studio Laika pushes design boundaries in every film it makes, and the lead character in “Missing Link” is no exception. “It became pretty apparent that [the character] Link was going to be the cornerstone,” says director and writer Chris Butler. “I did this rough drawing many years ago, and it was basically like a [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    New 3D-Printing Technology Was 'Missing Link' for Laika's Latest Stop-Motion Project

    For the upcoming animated comedy adventure “Missing Link,” stop-motion studio Laika set the bar very high. To execute the designs created by director and writer Chris Butler, artists would have to speed up their 3D printing of character faces — and those faces would have to be the most complex they’d ever created. “Missing Link” [...]

  • The Old Man and the Gun

    Ohio’s Midwest Locations and Flexible Tax Credit Lure Producers

    With its small towns, rolling farmlands and industrial cities, Ohio embodies the American Midwest. Other location lures for filmmakers include the shore along Lake Erie, the campus of Ohio State University, the striking skyline of Cincinnati and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The Buckeye State also provides producers with a 30% [...]

  • Nancy Schreiber Mapplethorpe Cinematographer

    DP Nancy Schreiber Captures Life of Artist Robert Mapplethorpe in Grimy Gotham

    Don’t tell cinematographer Nancy Schreiber that she’s having a renaissance. That would imply there’ve been slumps in her long career, and she won’t have any of that, even if for a time she was taking smaller jobs as the gaps widened between larger gigs. “It’s never been about the money, for me,” says Schreiber over [...]

  • What Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga Share:

    LeRoy Bennett Keeps Top Acts Like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande in the Spotlight

    You might say that LeRoy Bennett is a shining light among lighting and production designers for pop music. Doing double duty creating both touring sets and their illumination, he started out with a 14-year run as Prince’s collaborator, went on to work with Nine Inch Nails and Madonna and has counted Beyoncé’s and Bruno Mars’ [...]

  • Us Movie

    How 'Us' Pulled Off Subtle Differences in Costumes, Design, Music for Parallel Characters

    “Us,” Jordan Peele’s second outing as a director, following his 2017 critical and box office success “Get Out,” revisits similar psychological horror-thriller territory. But this time the stakes are, well, doubled.  In the new film, to be released by Universal on March 21, Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, returns to her childhood beachside home [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content