“We’re making a true replica rather than a representation,” explains production designer Alex DiGerlando about his Emmy-nominated work on “Fosse/Verdon.” The series about the relationship between showbiz legends Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams) required DiGerlando and his team to recreate everything from the couples opulent Manhattan penthouse to the iconic sets of some of Fosse’s most famous films. In our exclusive video interview (watch above), DiGerlando calls his approach to the task “two pronged.” We have to get all the period details right to make sure that the environments that the characters inhabit feel appropriates, but then we also have to build these recreations of sets. to think about how these sets would have been created at the time.
“Research is always my way into any set I’m designing,” DiGerlando adds. In designing Fosse and Verdon’s penthouse, he was able to determine the couple’s actual address and consult real estate documents to recreate the floor plan. But for the interior spaces, he relied on private photos provided by Fosse and Verdon’s daughter Nicole Fosse, who was also a producer on the series. “Those photos filled in the gaps,” he says. “I never would have ever thought to cover the walls in crushed orange velvet. But it was there in the photos.”
Recreating the film sets for “Cabaret” and “Sweet Charity” proved to be a different challenge altogether, thanks in part to the evolution in studio technology. “The sound stages that exist now look very different than sound stages in the sixties and seventies,” DiGerlando describes. “So even though we had a lot of scenes that took place on sound stages, we were limited in how much we could see the volume of the stage itself.”
DiGerlando had less to work with when it came to filming Fosse’s Southhampton beach house in the show’s fifth episode. There was little photographic evidence of the original home, so DiGerlando and his team built the entire set for the house based on their imagination. The design was so successful that friends of Fosse said that they remembered being in that beach house even though it was, as DiGerlando describes it, “a complete fiction.”
When it comes to his own process, DiGerlando pulls information from everywhere– the time period of the story, the script, the actors, the directors vision. Ultimately, he says that all of his designs have one primary function: “There are so many angles that you can come at the conceiving of a space from that will enrich the overall story you’re telling.”
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