In the final installment of <em>Variety</em> Artisans presented by HBO, production designer Maria Caso discussed how she recreated 1938 Los Angeles in “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” as well as her favorite…
In the final installment of Variety Artisans presented by HBO, production designer Maria Caso discussed how she recreated 1938 Los Angeles in “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” as well as her favorite set designs.
In order to capture the energy of L.A., Caso and her team listened to stories of present-day locals.
“The existing area where our neighborhood is, is actually now the Dodgers Stadium parking lot. But there are surrounding houses there, so we went down to East L.A. to the Boyle Heights area and we actually knocked on doors,” Caso said. “The real dialogue that we had with family members was something that I’ve never experienced before. So we took all of that information and put it onto the set.”
Caso used Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio as the canvas from which to build downtown L.A. in the 1930s. Although the construction was an overwhelming process, once the set started to come together, Caso said it was an amazing sight.
“The tricky part was that there’s a lot of history there and there’s a lot of buildings that we built interiors to. So we could take some of the western buildings down, but there were many buildings that we had to leave there,” Caso said. “We started by ripping out the boardwalks, taking down the awnings and then trying to design each building and figuring out where it would go.”
However, Caso’s favorite set design from the show is The Crimson Cat, a club where the townspeople would go to unwind, mingle and most of all, dance.
“I realized that I didn’t want to design the set, I just wanted it to be a space that felt really intimate,” Caso said. “Even though it was a big space, it was like a forbidden place that people would come to in the evening. It occurred to me that this set had to be a minimalist set, it just had to be a space with levels and colors.”
It was there that Caso really saw the characters of “Penny Dreadful” come alive.
“It’s not a designed place because it’s about the characters and when they come there – they’re having adversity during the day, and then at night they go here and they’re expressing themselves through dance and music and it’s powerful and it’s about spirit and love,” Caso said. “I would be in there watching and crying. For me, it ended up being my favorite set in my entire career because it was just to honor the characters and it was very simple.”