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The Alt-history/Sci-fi series WATCHMEN stems from the real-life Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. Set Decorators Kathy Orlando SDSA & Edward McLoughlin SDSA give us a glimpse... Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “For me, personally, working on this pilot was such an education and such an opportunity. I've been doing this for many years, and I have to say it's the most profound work experience I've had.” --Kathy Steven G. Norfleet, Alexis Louder. Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

WATCHMEN

June 18th, 2020


Set Decorators
Kathy Orlando SDSA, pilot
Edward McLoughlin SDSA, series
Production Designers*
HBO

 
The Alt-history/Sci-fi series WATCHMEN stems from the real-life Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, where the affluent black neighborhood Greenwood was looted and burned to the ground by whites, leaving scores of dead...mostly black residents, the rest incarcerated or homeless.
 
The stories told by popular culture can give audiences new reference points, changing discourse...and sometimes even public policy.
While they were working on HBO's limited series WATCHMEN, Set Decorators Kathy Orlando SDSA [Pilot] and Edward McLoughlin SDSA [Pilot/Ep1 additional photography + entire series] had no way of knowing the impact the show would have.
 
WATCHMEN entertained longtime fans of DC Comics and attracted new ones, while it brought to light this long-ignored racist terror event in American history.
 
Tulsans found new attention directed toward their city, and amplified the moment.
The Philbrook Museum hosted an event focusing on the making of WATCHMEN, inviting Edward to join pilot director Nicole Kassell and actor Tim Blake Nelson, a native Tulsan who plays Wade Tillman/Looking Glass, for a live panel discussion. 
     https://ktul.com/news/local/philbrook-hosts-discussion-on-hbo-series-portrayal-of-1921-tulsa-race-massacre


The impact of WATCHMEN went far beyond a museum event.  
Education advocates finally succeeded in getting the Tulsa Race Massacre included in the Oklahoma public school curriculum.
Many Tulsans reported never having learned about the destruction in a single day of what was known as the Black Wall Street, the wealthiest African-American neighborhood in North America. 




Listen to the compelling NPR coverage here:
   https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2020/02/28/tulsa-race-massacre-school-curriculum

For more background about the actual events and subsequent re-building of the Greenwood District:
   https://greenwoodculturalcenter.com/about-us
 
The show won a 2019 Peabody Award. 
“Brilliantly penned by Damon Lindelof, this high concept sci-fi superhero show refashions the famed DC Comics series to tell a story about racism, policing, fear, and more.”
   http://www.peabodyawards.com/award-profile/watchmen
 
Nicole Kassell, Director, WATCHMEN Episode 1: It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice, and Director Stephen Williams, WATCHMEN Episode 6: This Extraordinary Being, were each nominated for a DGA Award. The images in the gallery above are from those two episodes. In January of this year, Nicole Kassell won the Directors Guild of America Award for Dramatic Series in 2019. 
   https://www.dga.org/Awards/Annual.aspx#drama
 
Set Decorator Edward McLoughlin SDSA appears with series Creator/Executive Producer Damon Lindelof and Director Nicole Kassell in this HBO presentation re: the series.
   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hoR7aBUAIE&feature=emb_logo&fbclid=IwAR1DJbXZSX_KnMwAv-14WrdmF1uviK0GKFXS989NJq4C2MBEfpYD_7BqiWQ

McLoughlin notes: 
“WATCHMEN begins in Tulsa, 1921 and explores the legacy of systemic racism in America. 
We’re proud to announce @HBO will make all nine episodes available for free this weekend on HBO.com and On Demand, and will air a marathon of the series today, Juneteenth at 1PM ET.”

* Production Designers: Mark Worthington [Pilot], David Lee, Kristian Milsted
 

Editor's note:
Thank you to Eve Tolpa for her compilation and writing.
Thank you, Edward and Kathy for sharing your thoughts and sets.

Thank you, readers, for exploring all the links above and then returning here to see more of the phenomenal work Set Decorators do to bring both realism and fantasy, and to help provide not only a look into the dark, but also glimpses of hope.
Karen Burg, 
Editor



 



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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “Our director, Nikki Kassell, had such a sensitive touch. There was a tone that she struck on set that was so beautiful. The more I look at it and the more I think about it, she achieved something remarkable.” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “It wasn't lost on anyone out there what we were doing in terms of bringing to light the untaught history of the Tulsa massacre. So few people knew about this, and it was really fascinating. That's why we depict this story...and put so much care into telling it as close to the truth as possible.” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... Re: The street sets... “I got obsessed with re-creating the style of awning that I saw in my research. It was a soft awning that was retractable. We tried really hard to make those look authentic from the profile, because we knew that's what the viewer would mostly see.” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “We wanted to keep everything pretty minimal while also portraying that this was a middle-class neighborhood where they had money to spend on tailors, new tires, and pretty dresses. Kathleen Denson, our Set Dec Buyer, found just the right period correct elements to dress the windows...” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, detail... “I love working with Production Designer Mark Worthington. He always chooses the very best, most spot-on color palettes, and his attention to detail when creating period signage and graphics is exceptional.” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “I had images of shops from the era and region, and I took care to make note of the details that would indicate that these were Black-owned businesses.” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “We started dressing the set at 7pm, and the filming happened the following morning. Paint was still wet, meanwhile the camera was starting up. This is just our life!” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “We had paid professional researchers Damani Mangum and Amina Dieye. They’re an African American husband-and-wife team who dug pretty deep. They had contacts in Tulsa where they got source material, and they found many, many historical images from the Tulsa area that were invaluable.” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “Our additional research came from everywhere. I did research, Set Dec Coordinator MaryEllen Hendrick did research, and Production Designer Mark Worthington's team did extensive research.” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “Normally the set decorator doesn’t stay for the full day of filming, but in this case, there was so much action that it was all-hands-on-deck. Everybody was just trying to help.” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “It was such a moving experience being there amongst all the extras. There were people dressed as KKK members hanging out with African American actors. The mood was remarkable.” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO

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Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921... “It rained all day as we filmed. Every time it stopped, we could film. Every time it started, my team would run out and cover the set dressing while we waited.” Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO



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