Robinson Royce was born and raised in Long Beach California. He began his career by working as a stage technician at the Long Beach Community Theater, earning $100.00 a month. His new found interest in the Arts influenced his decision to attend Cal State Long Beach where he worked as a stage technician to fund his studies at the school earning a Masters Degree with an emphasis on Children’s Theater. Prior to entering the “business”, Robinson worked extensively, producing, acting and directing local and regional theater, including South Coast Rep among others.
Robinson taught at Los Angeles Harbor and Shasta College in Redding. While teaching, he was offered the opportunity to make dozens of documentaries for BFA, the educational branch of CBS. For this, he started his own companies, Ball of Waxworks, a film packaging company and Gotham Studios West where he and his business partner spent the next eight years creating countless commercials and 174 episodes of "Faith for Today". He continued working on both union and non-union projects until he was invited to join IATSE local 44. Robinson’s first union television job was decorating a Lorimar movie of the week. He was promptly fired and sent to work on a new tv show. It was named “Dallas”. He continued on numerous projects at the studio until 1981.
Discouraged with the direction the entertainment industry was taking, Robinson left set decorating to go back to school in 1981. He obtained a Masters degree in Occupational Health and Safety from Cal State L.A. Of course, this only lasted until the next Set Decorating job was offered.
Robinson is a founding member of the Set Decorators Society of America. He was elected to the board in 1994. His first assignment was the Don Quixote Committee, created to “Right the Wrongs and Fight the Battles” of Set Decorators, often left out within the Industry. Robinson was relentless, taking journalists to task for their omissions and errors, getting Set Decorators invited to screenings and mentioned in reviews. His annual letter to the British Film Academy, encouraging them to recognize set decorators, is a testament to the strength of his campaigning on behalf of this issue. In 1998 he became the SDSA's Treasurer and created the Revenue Enhancement Committee. Robinson was elected by the board to be the third President of the SDSA and many years later served as Vice President. The SDSA grew by leaps and bounds during Robinsons administration, he believed that “decisions are made by those who show up”, he encouraged the SDSA's magazine, Set Decor, to go from black and white to color, pushed for a better relationship with the Art Directors Guild and set out to befriend set decorators all around the world. In 2007 he was honored by the SDSA by being inducted into its Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and IATSE, where he served as one of the Set Decorators Representatives to local 44. Robinson and fellow Set Decorator Cindy Carr were nominated for an Emmy for their work on the miniseries "Sinatra". Of all of his shows this is one that stands out, nomination aside, as very special to Robinson. He loved working on it and he loved working with Tina Sinatra. Throughout his many years of working in television Robinson has decorated many beloved and iconic shows. Standing an imposing 6'7", he jokes that the most difficult skill to learn was to hang the wall dressing lower. He has to squat down to the camera's level and look through "his one bad eye" at the set. As he says "make a frame, look at the set and walk away".
Not favoring being a sit-com gypsy Robinson has always been one to establish relationships with studios and producers in order to stay in one place. He had the good fortune to start out at Lorimar, staying for three years and the next three years at Paramount. The Burbank Studios, as the Warner Bros lot was known back then, was his home for the next three and a half years. He spent the next two years doing several shows with Norman Lear and Tandem-Embassy. Stephen J Cannell Productions was next, for three years of action and adventure. “Dinosaurs” took him to Disney for nine years where he did several shows and many pilots. His grand finale would have been at Spelling Entertainment where Robinson spent nine productive years, but he also managed to work in one of his most popular shows “Reno 911”, something he did with his friends. Thirty years from “Dallas” to “Reno”, not a bad trip at all.
During that time Robinson has decorated numerous shows such as "Dallas" ,"Boy Meets World", "The A-Team", “Flash III: Deadly Nightshade” "The Greatest American Hero" (pilot), “Dinosaurs”, “Duet”, "American Dreamer", "The Royal Family", “Pictionary”, “Going Bananas” “You Wish”, “Social Studies”, "Smart Guy", "Teen Angel", "The Love Boat: The Next Wave", "Charmed", "Reno 911!" and “Reno 911 Miami, the Movie”
His boundless energy has afforded him the luxury of being able to enjoy his many other interests. These include traveling the World, tending to his boat, spending time with his dogs, visiting trade shows and having his hips replaced. Currently living in South Carolina, Robinson is now a gentlemen farmer. He still loves the theater and looks forward to getting involved again locally. It's with great pleasure that we award the SDSA Lifetime Achievement Award to Robinson Royce.
His credits include: Love Boat, Smart Guy, Sinatra, Social Studies, Boy Meets World, You Wish, Teen Angel, Pictionary, Dinosaurs, The Flash, A-Team, Dallas, Hart to Hart, O’Hara, Mork and Mindy, Charmed and Reno 911. Click here for link to IMDB.
Photos Credit: Jeanne Creations Photography