Bill Groom Q&A: ‘When We Rise’ production designer
When asked during our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above) about the daunting task of recreating almost four decades of period sets for “When We Rise,” production designer Bill Groom jokes, “I’m probably the only person on the project who actually lived through all of those decades.” Created by Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”), this ABC limited series recounts the gay rights movement in America, from 1972 through 2013. The show features a large ensemble cast, including Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Rachel Griffiths, Michael Kenneth Black, David Hyde Pierce, Whoopi Goldberg, and Rosie O’Donnell.
The veteran designer had an extra advantage in that he had worked with Black and director Gus Van Sant on “Milk” (2008), a biopic about activist Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), who became the first openly gay elected official in San Francisco, CA, in 1977 (Van Sant directed the pilot episode). “We kind of covered some of the same ground on ‘Milk,'” Groom divulges. “It was interesting to go back into this and carry it all the way to present day.” Although he readily admits, “it was pretty overwhelming, the amount of ground we had to cover in these episodes.”
Groom won four consecutive Emmys for HBO’s period drama “Boardwalk Empire” (2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015). Is he poised to add a fifth statuette to his mantle? Check out our full interview above for more about his work on “When We Rise.”