Uli Hanisch (‘The Queen’s Gambit’ production designer): ‘We were doing a superhero series’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“In a way we were doing a superhero series,” reveals Uli Hanisch about “The Queen’s Gambit.” For our recent webchat, he continues, “Beth is this outsider kid who is a lost soul. By her start she would not have a chance to get anything done in this world. Then, all of a sudden, she has this supernatural ability at chess. That opens the door to the world. It’s fantastically amazing to follow her and see how she can succeed because she has this ability and is this strong fighter.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.

“The Queen’s Gambit” is a Netflix limited series that follows the rise of chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) during the Cold War. Hanisch was responsible for the sets as production designer on the project. He explains, “Because Beth’s such a strange and interior character you are never really sure how much she is reflecting on the world outside. Every place is kind of overwhelming for her. We were always trying to get a balance of something that was intimidating and fascinating. For the last tournament in Moscow, our idea was to create something that was pure hell: the most gloomy, temple of doom for her to be challenged with.”

Despite the story being set in America the decision was made to primarily shoot the series in Berlin, where Hanisch is based. The designer confesses, “I thought ‘why the hell would they come to Europe?’ Understanding the story better, I understood the idea. Because of the history of Berlin, we have so many town halls, the Eastern and the Western parts. We can offer many strange and very different places. It was a very funny challenge to get all those places done in the wrong city. And it’s the 60’s which is a very nice period, but again we are wrong. It is a magical story, and we could go over the top pretty strong. We were not bound to any realities. We created our own world. I loved very much to overstep the realism and create this pure strange world of Beth.”

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