Luke Hull Interview: ‘Chernobyl’ production designer
“What makes ‘Chernobyl’ particularly rich visually, is the amount of detail that we’ve managed to cram into those five episodes,” explains production designer Luke Hull. That rich detail was noticed by Emmy voters, and Hull received his first Emmy nomination for Best Production Design (alongside his collaborators: art director Karen Wakefield and set decorator Claire Levinson Gendler). The bid was one of a whopping 19 nominations, making “Chernobyl” the most nominated limited series of the year. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Hull, whose resume spans a wide array of genres, admits that “the thing I’ve always been excited about, is to challenge myself to do something different.” When Craig Mazin’s script for “Chernobyl” found its way to him, the designer knew he wanted to immediately take on the gargantuan challenge. “I’ve never read a script that sucked me in so quickly” gushes Hull. “It was very easy to get drawn in and obsessed by a project like this.”
The designer worked closely with director Johan Renck to scout suitable locations. The majority of production took place in Lithuania, but they found that the structures and locales in the country lacked a certain scale that was required for the project. So, shooting locations expanded to other countries, custom sets were constructed on sound stages, and real life locations were built out to convey the massive scope of the story. Though he estimates they had 158 sets, Hull offers, “I don’t think we found a single location where we took it as it was.”
During his creative process, Hull conjures up a collage of images before shooting begins. “I get a lot of imagery together and get it up on the wall,” he explains. As Hull pieces together bits of research and inspiration to find what fits together, he starts to “build a language” for the project.
The visual language of “Chernobyl” is one of oppressively vast structures, clashing patterns, and sickly green hues. Trips to the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania led to an increased understanding of the Soviet architecture in these plants. Hull discovered an “interior maze and warren of concrete” that he embedded in series’ take on the Chernobyl Power Plant. Real life set elements like the Ignalia plant were combined with research, “like a puzzle,” to create the world of Chernobyl before the infamous disaster. The result is a grim depiction of the bubble the Soviet Union existed in both before and after the deadly blast at Chernobyl.