×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How ‘The Good Place’ Production Team Handled Location Challenges

Searching for a path to “The Good Place” has been full of twists and turns for the cast of the hit NBC comedy, which includes Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. The same also could be said for Kimberly Wannop and Ian Phillips, the show’s set decorator and production designer, respectively, who for the upcoming fourth and final season, premiering Sept. 26, have spent almost all their time on location.

“Going into locations is always a challenge,” says Phillips, who joined the series in its third season. “You travel somewhere and are limited by when you can shoot, when you can prep and how much time you have there.” 

Location shoots involve everything from painting to replacing entire rooms of furniture with the proper set dressing. Phillips also may need to design false walls if the script needs a different layout than a room presents.

Everything done on location needs to be meticulously planned, since changes are expensive. “We beg to make tiny picture holes,” says Wannop, who joined the show in its second season and won an Emmy in 2017 for her work on “Veep.” “But then that requires patch and paint and money and time. We use command hooks and take glass out of frames to make them lighter. We have to get creative.”

Even filming in an office on the Universal lot involves added considerations, because the crew can’t change anything until everyone who regularly works in the office has gone home for the night. “We have to reschedule everybody,” says Phillips. “If we can’t paint until six o’clock at night, that means Kim can’t get in until the next morning [before shooting]. So at 4 a.m., there’s Kim dressing [the location].”

For Wannop, who is board president of the Set Decorators Society of America, day-of-shoot dressing is the most nerve-racking.
“If you forget something, you’re screwed,” she says. “So everything has to be there.” 

Perhaps the biggest compliment — and frustration — comes when even the crew doesn’t realize the extent of the department’s efforts. Wannop remembers someone in production once asking if he could bring his family to the “cool museum” where they were shooting, apparently unaware it was an empty house before she and the team worked their magic. 

Phillips and Wannop combine research with an in-depth reading of the script to create believable sets. “You have to take information [from the dialogue] and apply it to the [characters],” says Phillips. Adds Wannop: “We can pick and choose from all the research and
then incorporate it into the sets to make them look more authentic.”

Even with their heavy workload, the art department makes time for inside jokes. During an upcoming scene in the Bad Place, audiences can look for a series of photographs on the wall. “It’s myself and the rest of the department,” Phillips says.

Throughout the season, audiences can also search for stickers of the on-set dresser’s silhouette on everything from coffee carts to signs. These have been in use since the pair worked together on “Parks and Recreation,” also created by Michael Schur. Phillips says fans talk about a crossover between the two shows, joking that there’s one going on behind the scenes even if fans don’t realize it.

“Yes, it’s a job,” Phillips says. “But you have to make it fun too.” 

More Artisans

  • Advanced Imaging Society Honors 10 Women

    AIS Honors 10 Women in Tech

    Celebrating 10 years of achievement in entertainment technology, the Advanced Imaging Society today named 10 female industry innovators who will receive the organization’s 2019 Distinguished Leadership Awards at the its 10th annual Entertainment Technology Awards ceremony on October 28 in Beverly Hills. The individuals were selected by an awards committee for being significant “entertainment industry [...]

  • Will Smith Gemini Man Special Effects

    How the 'Gemini Man' VFX Team Digitally Created a Younger Version of Will Smith

    More human than human — yes, that’s a “Blade Runner” reference — yet it sounds like an unattainable standard when it comes to creating believable, photorealistic, digital human characters. But the visual effects team on Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” set its sights on something even more difficult: creating a digital version of young Will Smith [...]

  • Jest to Impress Cartoon Network Virtual

    New In-House VR Program Helps Cartoon Network Artists Add a Virtual Dimension

    Teams of animators and artists from across Cartoon Network’s numerous properties are getting the chance to expand into virtual reality storytelling via the company’s pilot program, Journeys VR. The work of the first three teams — including experiences based on action, nature and comedy — was unveiled to global audiences Oct. 1 on Steam and [...]

  • Frozen 2

    How the 'Frozen II' Artists Created Believable Emotion Through Animation

    “The more believable you can make the character [look], the more people believe how [it’s] feeling,” says Tony Smeed, who, with Becky Bresee, shared the challenge of heading animation on Disney’s highly anticipated “Frozen II.” “Emotion comes from inside and manifests itself into actions and facial expressions. Anything beyond that is movement for the sake [...]

  • Lucy in the Sky BTS

    'Lucy in the Sky' DP Shifts Frame to Show Inner Turmoil of Natalie Portman's Astronaut

    What drew cinematographer Polly Morgan to “Lucy in the Sky” was how Noah Hawley’s script so clearly illuminated the emotional breakdown of astronaut Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) in a way that felt very insular: The visual cues were on the page — and conveyed an unusual approach to charting the character’s journey. “When things fall [...]

  • NICKI LEDERMAN and JOAQUIN PHOENIX Joker

    How Makeup, Hair and Costume Team Gave 'Joker' a New Look for Origin Story

    “We’re not in the superhero world,” says Nicki Ledermann, makeup head on Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” which reimagines the iconic comic book villain’s origin in an acclaimed performance from Joaquin Phoenix. “This story is treated as real life, and that’s what made the project so interesting.” In this most recent take on Batman’s nemesis — a [...]

  • Exceptional Minds VFX Autism Training

    VES Honoree Susan Zwerman Trains People on the Autism Spectrum for Film, TV Jobs

    Most of those who have earned the honor of VES Fellow in the past decade have been recognized by the Visual Effects Society for on-screen innovation. But this year’s honoree, Susan Zwerman, is equally distinguished by her off-screen accomplishments. Zwerman is the studio executive producer for Exceptional Minds, a visual effects and animation school for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content