Mara LePere-Schloop Interview: ‘The Alienist’ production designer
“It was both exciting and daunting at the same time,” admits production designer Mara LePere-Schloop about her work on “The Alienist.” Produced by Cary Joji Fukunaga (“True Detective”), this TNT limited series focuses on a newspaper illustrator (Luke Evans) who teams up with a criminal psychologist (Daniel Brühl) and a headstrong NYPD secretary (Dakota Fanning) to investigate a serial killer in 19th century New York City. On one hand, LePere-Schloop was mesmerized by “this amazing world that we were going to have the potential to build.” But on the other hand, “it was also extremely horrifying because it’s this massive, sprawling story of 1890s New York” and “a showcase of the architecture of the city, both then and now.” Watch our exclusive video interview with LePere-Schloop above.
Historical accuracy was important to LePere-Schloop, and it was crucial to avoid creating “the stylized Hollywood version of New York at that time period.” So much of the serial killer’s identity “is a result of his environment … So we really wanted the scenery to be very visceral, almost like you could smell the sets. The impact of the chaos of the city at that time was something we really wanted to feel.” One of the ways she achieved this was by filling the streets with garbage, since “public sanitation really wasn’t a thing” at the time.
LePere-Schloop received an Emmy nomination in 2014 for her art direction in the first season of “True Detective,” for which she won an Art Directors Guild Award. She competed once more at the guild for “Django Unchained” (Best Period Film in 2012). And she also served as production designer on such films as “That Evening Sun” (2009), “The Whole Truth” (2016), “Elvis & Nixon” (2016), and “Split” (2017).