“One of the challenges when you’re working in this milieu is that these people are so wealthy and so busy,” declares production designer Lester Cohen. “To get them to pause and even contemplate letting the great unwashed into their very palatial homes is a challenge,” he says. Cohen, alongside collaborators Keri Lederman and Doug Huszti were tasked with the lavish production design on “The Undoing,” HBO’s six-part thriller set among the wealthiest of New York’s high society. Watch our exclusive video interview with the trio above.
“The Undoing” was created by multiple Emmy-winning writer/producer David E. Kelley (“L.A. Law,” “Picket Fences,” “The Practice,” “Ally McBeal,” “Big Little Lies”) and directed by Emmy-winning director Susanne Bier (“The Night Manager”), based on the book “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz. It follows Grace Sachs (Nicole Kidman), who lives a picture-perfect life in New York City as a successful therapist, married to esteemed doctor Jonathan Fraser (Hugh Grant), raising their son Henry (Noah Jupe).
Their lives painfully unravel after a mysterious woman is brutally murdered, Jonathan goes missing and it is later revealed that the victim was Jonathan’s mistress. As a series of shocking revelations rock Grace’s world and the family endure a painful trial with their hotshot defense lawyer Haley Fitzgerald (Noma Dumezweni) hired by Grace’s rich and influential father (Donald Sutherland), she is forced to start over with her son while questioning whether she truly ever knew the man she married.
The series’ production design team meticulously re-created opulent Upper East Side living spaces, giving the audience a glimpse into the rarefied world of New York’s most privileged elites. The Fraser’s townhouse is full of expensive art and on-trend furniture, while the the ornate, lavish penthouse inhabited by Franklin Reinhardt (Sutherland) reeks of old money. The trio also utilized the rustic beach house to which Grace escapes as her life begins to unravel, as well as the stuffy boys-club law firm where Haley works and the cold, austere courtroom that eventually bears witness to the ultimate revelations about the gruesome murder that set the series’ events in motion.
“What’s amazing about New York is that everyone living in these different economic strata are all shoulder to shoulder,” Cohen says. “So, through scale and color, we tried to create different levels.” Lederman agrees, noting that “right from the get-go, Susanne expressed how color was so important to her, in telling these people’s stories and trying to illustrate what their world is. So that helped with the Frasers and their warm woods and the oranges and deep reds and giving that sense of coziness and home and history and the same thing with Franklin, with the grandeur and the cool tones.”
Indeed, the Reinhardt penthouse was one of their highlights because it represents a side of the Big Apple that we are not usually privy to. “Ordinary people don’t get to see this room,” Huszti smiles. “The views, the scale of the ceiling, the architecture itself was not something that everybody gets to see.” Huszti continues by explaining how stage sets that they built were adapted from the real-life locations used during production, so even though the palatial penthouse doesn’t look like it would exist in real life due to its overt opulence and grandeur, it actually does. “It’s in someone’s apartment, but it’s not an apartment that mere mortals get to see. It was pretty wonderful and I feel privileged that I got to see that architecture and mimic it as we did.”
Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify Hollywood chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?