Mark Worthington Interview: ‘The Umbrella Academy’ production designer
“I’ve been nominated eight times — I’m kind of the Susan Lucci of production designers at this point,” Mark Worthington laughs in his exclusive interview with Gold Derby (watch the video above) in reference to the “All My Children” star who infamously waited until her 19th nomination before winning a Daytime Emmy Award for her performance in 1999. A past Emmy nominee for “Ugly Betty” and “American Horror Story,” as well as an Art Directors Guild Award winner for both, Worthington is now nominated at the Emmys for the pilot of “The Umbrella Academy” in the category of Best Contemporary Production Design.
It is a curious placement for a superhero show with post-apocalyptic scenes that is set “in an unnamed city” with a timeless design. Worthington justifies Netflix’s submission: “It’s alternate-timeline, but it’s more or less contemporary. Although we have the beautiful academy and so forth, that’s all stuff that exists in a contemporary setting. A lot of what we see as we go out into the world is contemporary.” He concludes that “you can make a valid argument on either side” and adds, “One of the things that’s fun about this story is it’s really hard to categorize.”
The eponymous setting constituted the main undertaking for Worthington on this pilot. He explains, “The house comes from the idea of some sort of Upper East Side mansion, but the mashup there is that that’s placed within essentially a tenement block — something that looks like the East Village — and that’s where the kids are. They’re next door to the main, big palatial space in their six-floor East Village walk-up idea, which is pretty fun — the contrast.” Worthington says about adapting the show’s source material by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá under showrunner Steve Blackman, “You’re always dealing with, ‘Well, how do we deal with the material in a sensitive way, but translate it into a live-action format in a way which makes sense for that format?’ because a graphic novel is a very different animal.”
Worthington will be eligible at the Emmys next year for this October’s “Watchmen” pilot, which reunited him with showrunner Damon Lindelof, whose “Lost” pilot 15 years ago yielded Worthington his first Art Directors Guild nomination. Worthington is currently working a project for Marvel, but he cannot divulge its title and his webcam connection cut out at the first mention to Gold Derby of his involvement.