While sets for “The Comey Rule” included prestigious rooms in the White House, including the Oval Office and the Blue Room, it was another real life location that proved to be the most challenging for the limited series’ production designer, Christopher Brown. “Given the scope and scale and the lack of visual reference for real spaces, dealing with the directors suite on the seventh floor of the FBI building was definitely something that we spent the most energy, trying to make sure that we landed,” he tells us during our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above). He adds that he wanted to make sure the interior reflected the brutalist look of the FBI headquarters as well as a reflective place where Comey would make his decisions. “The director could feel himself in a private space where he needed to be alone with what was going on, because ultimately he was making those choices and decisions.”
“The Comey Rule,” which is currently available on Showtime, dramatizes two key points of James Comey‘s tenure as the head of the FBI from 2013 until May of 2017. Written and directed by Oscar nominee, Billy Ray, the first part examines how Comey (Jeff Daniels) handled the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. While this is going on, we see some of the ethical questions that are arising from the presidential campaign of Donald Trump (Brendan Gleeson). The second episode examines the relationship between Trump and Comey as the Russia investigation starts to come into focus and eventually culminates in Trump firing Comey from his position.
The rooms of the White House did present challenges in their design, especially for the dinner scene that takes place between Trump and Comey. “There’s a historic debt which is owed in terms of rendering those spaces accurately because they’re available to the public and you want to make sure that you’re being honest in what you’re presenting so that it feels like it’s a real space.” But Brown was still able to use different aspects of the production design to heighten the tension between the two characters. “You focus the attention down and let the light fall off the walls and the chandelier loom over the top of the table and the pair of windows directly behind the two people who were in profile in their seats as they sit down all shape how the intimacy and intensity of that dinner play out.”
When trying to design spaces to heighten Trump’s character, Brown did take a bit of creative license with which rooms were designed to replicate Trump Tower and the meetings that happened there during the campaign. “The Trump Organization’s conference room, where that meeting actually happened is a white drywall box with a black shiny table, which was not going to speak to the character to try and give us a sense of who he is.” Brown ended up using a design from a different part of the building to help bring out more of the character. “We referenced the penthouse in the same building, which is his personal residence, which is quite opulent and quite extravagant and try to marry the two so that you would get a sense of who the man was before he was in office.”
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