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Ann Shea and John Shaffner
photo by Jeff Kaufer
Two and a Half Men
Set Photo by Ann Shea
Set photo by Anne Shea
Two and a Half Men
Two and a Half Men
Photo by Ann Shea
The CBS hit TWO AND A HALF MEN revolves around a well-to-do bachelor with a house at the beach and a way with women. Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) finds that his Malibu lifestyle changes when his recently divorced brother Alan (Jon Cryer) moves in, bringing along his twelve-year-old son Jake (Angus T Jones) and a conservative mind-set. The premise isn’t new, but there is a light and winning ambience that keeps viewers watching.
The home is key. Set Decorator Ann Shea SDSA and Production Designer John Shaffner have created an understated elegance with Mediterranean flavor. No trite commentary on bachelor-pads here. The furnishings are comfortable, subtle but upscale, with individual, eclectic pieces, not just the latest, hottest trappings. There are actually books on the shelves!
“Good set decoration enhances an actor’s performance,” notes Shea. “We want to provide comfort for the actors. So I put myself into Charlie’s character when I shop, looking for home décor that he would choose. It can’t be too frilly or decorative. He is not a person who is overly concerned with objects for the sake of having them. Charlie is very natural; he likes gnarly wood things and browns. The use of color is controlled. We accent with it but use lots of warm neutrals.”
“We usually have two new sets a week, which may not sound like a lot,” she continues. “But our look is high-end, so finding what I want and having it available is definitely a challenge.”
Innovation in design and decoration is another key. “The great challenge of designing a sitcom is trying to rediscover geography, how to make the rooms have spaces that seem real, but not worn-out,” Shaffner explains. “Chuck Lorre (Executive Producer/Co-Creator) wanted very much to see
inside this house, so he guided us toward the concept of having the kitchen much further into the set than you might normally find on a regular four-camera shoot. We then created the family room in front of the kitchen so it can be moved to provide camera space. Bookshelves and the fireplace can open up, and we put cameras deep enough inside the set so we really feel at home.”
The expansion of possibilities includes the exterior patio deck which can also be used to shoot ‘reverses’ into the house. A fourth wall is sometimes used to keep the audience undetectable when shooting the reverses. Shaffner describes, “The way they utilize the space has been very inventive. The challenge with multi-camera is to have multiple spaces we can go to, so the shot is not always the same. Having the deck makes the house more believable as a beach house. We couldn’t really do a beach, so we have stairs going down the cliff to the sand.”
Shea takes her decorating cues from the architecture, fleshing things out in the detail of hand-worked elements: iron sconces, screens and tools; rattan and basketry; kilim fabrics and Spanish ceramic work. Plants are large and sculptural. Taupe linen tab drapes accent natural woven shades. “I feel so fortunate to be working on this show,” says Shea. “I have an excellent crew, and Warner Bros has amazing people in their construction, scenic, drapery and upholstery departments. I use them every week.”
Although it is the first time Shea and Shaffner have worked together, the rapport and respect between them is evident. “I think the collaboration between the Production Designer and the Set Decorator is a wonderful relationship because we inspire each other and the end product is better,” Shaffner states. “The ultimate achievement of a decorator is when you fill a room with furniture and it seems to have a happy conversation.”