Howard Cummings interview: ‘Lovecraft Country,’ ‘Westworld’ production designer
Howard Cummings really got the best of both worlds. The two-time Emmy winner has been “Westworld’s” production designer since its second season and worked on the pilot of HBO’s period horror drama “Lovecraft Country,” which premiered in August.
“The cool thing about ‘Westworld’ and one of the reasons why I wanted to do it was because it has both — future and past,” Cummings tells Gold Derby during our Meet the Experts: TV Production Design panel (watch above). “To be able to do two projects that are really tonally different as well was great. … To go from ‘Westworld,’ super futuristic stuff, to 1950s Chicago was really a great adventure.”
Cummings, who was able to bring his “Westworld” set decorator Julie Ochipinti onto the “Lovecraft” pilot, worked with Kalina Ivanov, who designed the rest of “Lovecraft’s” first season. The pilot differs from the rest of the season in that it takes place primarily in Chicago and was also shot on location (the rest of the season was filmed in Atlanta). Cummings had to find a neighborhood in Chicago that fit the show’s needs and could be transformed, finally landing on a section in Pilsen.
“The director on that show, Yann Demange, really wanted everything to physically connect, so I had to find an intersection that could completely shut down that had a place for the Negro travel office and then upstairs had to have the apartment [where the Freemans lived],” Cummings explains. “And they all had to work completely together. He really wanted the ability to put the camera in from outside the window and pull in and continue the scenes so that you’re always referencing the inside and the outside.”
The pilot features a block party that’s full of energy and an array of bright colors — a true departure from “Westworld” that primarily traffics in a very specific color scheme. “‘Westworld’ has a really narrow color palette, especially Seasons 1 and 2 — it’s pretty much red, black, gray and white. I literally used the same colors; I didn’t vary them. And for the Western part, it was earth tones, some browns. But we always held back on color,” Cummings says. “And [in Season 3] on ‘Westworld,’ when the robots go crazy and get out of the park, you do intersect color, but even then I sort of figured out ways to process it. … So it was great to work on two very different shows that had to have very different approaches.”