WATCHMEN


  • 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.
    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    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


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


    Greenwood District,
    Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921...


    “We were filming in Cedartown, Georgia, but Nikki, our director for the pilot, really wanted to use the theater in Macon.
    In this photo, we just see the exterior. Inside, the seats are staggered—there is no aisle. We had to remove all the seats and rearrange them to create the aisle. It was hard to imagine how much work that would take, but Lead Lawrence Heap and Gang Boss John Gill figured out the best way to make it happen.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO



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


    Greenwood District,
    Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921...


    “Our location department was run by two women, Kellie Morrison and Melissa Mortensen, and they were phenomenal.
    They had Southern food and local bluegrass musicians set up for us when we scouted.
    Then when the filming crew came in, we broke down barriers. By the end of the filming session, we had made friends with the locals.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Greenwood District,
    Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921...


    “It was a coincidence, but we happened to start filming on the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre. It was producer Ron Schmidt's idea to get a pastor to bless the set the day we started filming.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    Now we move to Episode 106, another perspective...time and history have changed, slightly and a lot, but not the event that triggered it...

    Set Decorator Edward McLoughlin SDSA notes,
    “It's amazing how the series seems to become only more relevant as time goes on.
    In WATCHMEN, the yellow masks are worn by the police to hide their identity, and police today sometimes hide their identity by turning off their cameras or concealing their badges.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “The pilot and Episode 6 can almost be seen as standalone episodes, and yet they are connected. They both represent the trauma explained.”
    Edward and Episode 6 continue our journey...

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO



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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...>

    “Working with production designer Kristian Milsted was a joy. He has such vision and deep understanding of the material. He is Danish and lives in London, which is where I grew up, so we had common reference points. In America, we're both outsiders in some way, and that brought a different perspective to our work together.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO



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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “Because so many of the shots' lighting leaned so heavily on practicals, I worked very closely with Director of Photography Gregory Middleton to make sure our set dec choices looked right historically and did what they needed to do in terms of motivating the light.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    June’s place, Harlem

    Danielle Deadwyler. Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO



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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “The scripts had very complicated narratives.
    I remember a phrase WATCHMEN's Writer/Showrunner Damon Lindelof used: ‘Don't worry, it will all make sense in the end.’

    Making TV is like watching TV—you need to trust the process, and you need to trust you are in safe hands. I really did with Damon.
    Like, I don't know why this is happening or what it leads to, but I'm down with it.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “Going to Tulsa, I learned what a responsibility it is to represent people's experience.
    I met a man who he said that he knew about the massacre, but every time he talked about it, he was told that it was a long time ago and he should just get over it.
    He said WATCHMEN changed that dynamic.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    Because the story is so broad, you get a little bit of everything visually. That was exciting and challenging.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “Director Stephen Williams had a very clear vision of how he wanted to film Episode 6. Even though that vision was incredibly complex and we were wondering how we were going to do it, he provided strong scaffolding, so we knew exactly what we had to achieve.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “In Set Dec, our role is to create an environment where these stories can be told.
    It seems to be quite important to us as humans that we go to the trouble of creating a world just so that we can tell a story.
    It's part of what being human is.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    When we shot Episode 6, it hadn't yet been decided whether it was going to be aired in black and white or color, so we dressed it with both versions in mind.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “I started revisiting old black-and-white films to see how they handled set dressing. Contrast and texture became really important.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO



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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “The Fred's Market set was big; a lot of action took place in that space.
    We actually did two versions of Fred's Market.
    One was brighter and cleaner—more comic-bookish—and the other had less contrast and was more subdued.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO



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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “The Fred's Market set was big; a lot of action took place in that space.
    We actually did two versions of Fred's Market.
    One was brighter and cleaner—more comic-bookish—and the other had less contrast and was more subdued.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO



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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “The way color and black-and-white palettes were used to convey history, family memory, dream states, etc., was really interesting. Toggling back and forth was a challenge.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “We're giving a backdrop to a story being told. It's not about the set itself, it's about the story. If we're doing our job right, the set conveys the story in a seamless way.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO



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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “Ultimately it was popular culture that told a story and had a profound effect on the discourse and people's reference points. They are teaching the Tulsa race massacre in the Oklahoma public schools now. People had been working for years to get it on the curriculum, and the TV show was a tipping point.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


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


    Another time & place, stemming from Greenwood trauma...

    “One weird thing was that different sides of the street were supposed to represent different places at different times. It was quite complex in that respect. We dressed maybe 20 shops total here.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO



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


    “WATCHMEN stands out as one of the most complex, exciting, and fulfilling projects that I've ever worked on.
    I'm so grateful that I got the chance to work on it.

    My wonderful office crew!
    Set Dec Asst J.D. Duncan, Set Dec Coordinator MaryEllen Hendrick, Set Dec Buyer Noelle Jean-Baptiste, Set Dec Buyer Kelli Kilpatric...and me, in the hat.
    Not pictured: Set Dec Buyers Maureen McGuire & Ian Scroggins.”

    Photo by Mark Hill ©2019 HBO


June 18th, 2020

 
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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