Alice Normington (‘The Essex Serpent’ production designer) details the ‘ever-shifting landscape’ of the stunning Essex marshes [Exclusive Video Interview]

In moving to Essex, the series opens up an entirely different visual palate. The team scouted many possible locations to stand in for Essex, but they decided on Essex itself because as Normington says, “This is where the story is set, this is the world that this story exists in.” She describes the place as “so specific and peculiar and beautiful and bleak… and magnificent.” The geography definitely presented challenges. She calls those Essex marshes and rivulets an “ever-shifting landscape” where at times all the land would be “completely underwater.”

Cora eventually settles in a cottage in the fictional Aldwinter, where she forms an unlikely and at times challenging relationship with vicar Will Ransome (Tom Hiddleston). Normington had a very specific vision of their two homes. As she describes, for Cora “Essex is her heaven” and her cottage is therefore “all white.” She also introduces “yellow at points which was really to show the sunshine and show light and life and sun and happiness.” Will’s rectory, meanwhile, “was based on all things earthly, it was all earthy colors and friendly and textural and layers.”

Normington had a very difficult time finding locations that were felt sufficiently old, especially in Essex. Aldwinter needed to feel “very, very old and lost in another time,” as well as “monochrome. That’s how they see things, these people see the world in black and white, it’s science or religion,” the production designer notes. They discovered the community church, in fact, “quite close to London… that was very hard to find, something that felt rooted in another time.”

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