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Meemaw’s house... Young Sheldon Cooper [Iain Armitage] with his beloved Meemaw [Annie Potts], in one of Set Decorator Richard C Walker SDSA’s favorite sets. In the video below, he takes us on tour of another. Richard talks of this being a “memory” show, as it’s narrated by the grown Sheldon telling of his childhood, thus the sets are often within that filter... Photo by Monty Brinton ©2017 CBS Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

YOUNG SHELDON

April 13th, 2020


Set Decorator
Richard C Walker SDSA
Production Designer Joe Lucky
CBS/CBS All Access

 
For the young Sheldon Cooper, it isn’t easy growing up in East Texas. Having a mind capable of advanced mathematics and science isn’t always helpful in a land where church and football are king. And while the vulnerable, gifted and somewhat naïve Sheldon deals with the world, his very normal family must find a way to deal with him. 
His father, George, is struggling to find his way as a high school football coach and as father to a boy he doesn’t understand. Sheldon’s mother, Mary, fiercely protects and nurtures her son in a town where he just doesn’t fit in. Sheldon’s older brother, Georgie, does the best he can in high school, but it’s tough to be cool when you’re in the same classes with your odd little brother. Sheldon’s twin sister Missy sometimes resents all the attention Sheldon gets, but also remains the one person who can reliably tell Sheldon the truth. Finally, there’s Sheldon’s beloved Meemaw, his foul-mouthed, hard-drinking Texas grandmother who is very supportive of her grandson and his unique gifts. 
For 12 years on THE BIG BANG THEORY, audiences came to know the eccentric and extraordinary Sheldon Cooper. This single-camera, half-hour comedy allows us the chance to meet him in childhood, as he embarks on his innocent, awkward and hopeful journey toward the man he will become. 
--  CBS Television Network and CBS All Access
 
 
Thanks to Set Decorator Richard C. Walker SDSA, Production Designer Joe Lucky and their teams, it’s easy to become immersed in the childhood of the singular and beloved character from TBBT.
 
The ever-gracious Walker is quick to give Set Decorator Ann Shea SDSA acknowledgement for the 12 seasons of the original series THE BIG BANG THEORY and Betty Berberian SDSA credit for establishing the Cooper home for the YOUNG SHELDON pilot, which subsequently became the first episode of this iteration. 
 
But for three full seasons, Richard has been sharing with us the 9-to-11-year-old Sheldon’s world, from a perspective he can very directly relate to—he grew up in a similar time, with some of the same savant qualities, just channeled differently, a visual creativity instead of numbers. This is the Set Decorator who carried around a 6-inch puppet leg and foot for several months to shop for, discover, then reinvent and repurpose elements for the sets for TEAM AMERICA! 
There are obviously some shared qualities, although, Walker is as charming and engaging as the adultSheldon is not.
 
His career has included the glamorous and the arcane. His foray into television was a glitzy soap opera, leading to another, from there many hit sitcoms and comedies, receiving an Emmy + multiple Emmy nominations for a range of shows. Walker jumped in at the beginning of this series, expanding on the base and dealing with innumerable swing sets full force for the full season, and the next, has now wrapped the third, and when television production comes back up, he and his team will begin the fourth.
 
Typical of a television series, the first season establishes the basic storyline and sets, the second, third and future seasons expand and explore, and show more depth. The producers were enthusiastic about visually telling the story, so the myriad swing sets multiplied into innumerable! 
 
For instance, the writers would come up with great one-line themes based on phrases or concepts children are told, or certainly were at that time, such as...
...Kids around the world are not getting enough to eat...
...Kids around the world are receiving limited toys...
...The seven deadly sins...
Each of which, although just one line in a script, was rendered in detail in the scene’s set. Walker is known for that deep detail and wit, so even the “simplest” [not a word he’s familiar with] 2-wall insert shots, are fun and fully realized.
 
Warner Bros Property

There have also been homages to the original series, i.e. a classic comic book store and, recently, in recognition of that show’s finale, the childhood bedrooms of key TBBT characters were depicted, each personality defined in these visual glimpses into their origins. A huge responsibility Walker and his team embraced. 
[See photo gallery above and video below!]
 
Another tie-in this season, the young Sheldon and his father visited Cal Tech and the now iconic cafeteria where we saw the very tables he and his friends would occupy as young physicists and scientists in TBBT. These weren’t copies, they were the exact pieces brought in from the Warner Bros. museum. [Check the video below!]
 
In the second season, Richard and his team were able to thoroughly bring us into Sheldon’s beloved Meemaw’s world. And, what a delight that has been! Walker has personally channeled aspects of his grandmother into this sassy, casino-going, Texas-lady’s home which, fittingly, reflects different periods of her life all in one place. He loves letting people tour the set. “It has to be the epitome of everyone’s Grandma’s house...you always hear, ‘Oh, my Grandma had that!’” 
 
He points out, “It’s a nostalgia memory show...you want to hit those buttons on everybody’s memories.”  This applies to each of the sets, whether a gas station/auto parts store with a peeling SnoCone shack next door or an early Radio Shack store with Tandy computers. [Did we mention, you should see the video below?!]
 
There is also a very sensitive and real portrayal of a hoarder. This isn’t just piles of newspapers, this is a repository for many treasured items, carefully, beautifully curated by Walker and his team. [See gallery above.]
 
We haven’t mentioned the slippery slope of this particular time period, which isn’t far enough back to be considered retro, nor the ephemera particularly collectible. Yet, a variety of stores and restaurants with those very elements included are brought forth for just a short time on camera, but with such depth, at times the production crew felt they were real! And if it’s a recurring set, which means it’s completely wrapped and then they re-create it later, sometimes more than once, he makes sure there isn’t a slip of that realism, “Guys, this is a store, things can change...it’s a living breathing thing.” As are all of his sets, actually.
 
Editor’s note:
See the gallery above...
...and the video visit below, where Richard chats with SDSA Executive Director Gene Cane and me, while revealing the Ballard’s Sporting Goods set from this season!
We know you’ll enjoy!
And a special shoutout thank you to Warner Bros. Property Department for your support at this time!

Karen Burg, Editor
SET DECOR 

Richard C. Walker SetDecor Interview from OfficialSDSA on Vimeo.

A set visit with Set Decorator Richard C. Walker SDSA! 
Richard talks with SDSA Executive Director Gene Cane and SET DECOR Editor Karen Burg
--Video edit by Chase Helzer, SDSA Social Media Director 
 
 



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Meemaw’s house... Sheldon’s grandmother is a character with great aplomb and style... Annie Potts. Photo by Eric Voake ©2019 WBEI. All rights reserved.

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Meemaw’s house... Richard channeled his grandmother with many of the personal selections... “This is a passage of time. She’s had years to build up this wealth of furnishings and art and sentimental objects...” Photo courtesy of RCW/WBEI. All rights reserved.

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Meemaw’s house... A classic... Photo courtesy of RCW/WBEI. All rights reserved.

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Church office... Sheldon’s mother, Mary [Zoe Perry] volunteers regularly at the church... Here, with no-nonsense secretary Peg [Nancy Linehan Charles]... Photo by Michael Yarish ©2019 CBS Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

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Church reception... So many exactly right details... Richard recalls aspects of his childhood and translates them onto the set... Photo courtesy of RCW/WBEI. All rights reserved.

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King Kong Comics store... Comic book stores were constantly appearing in the original TBBT series. Sheldon discovers his first... Photo by Jessica Brooks ©2017 CBS Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

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King Kong Comics store... Sheldon and his friend Tam get lectured by his mother about reading “mature” comic books... Ryan Phuong, Iain Armitage. Photo by Bill Inoshita ©2018 CBS Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

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King Kong Comics store... This recurring set is a comic book paradise of the late 1980s... Photo courtesy of RCW/WBEI. All rights reserved.

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Library... Richard was able to fill this vintage library card file with a full system of cards from the time period...from his own mother’s church collection. When a specific card is pulled in one of the scenes, it’s the actual card for that book, not a replication! He points out that his team worked diligently to have all of the books in the library set up true to the Dewey Decimal system... Sarah Baker, Iain Armitage. Photo by Cliff Lipson ©2018 CBS Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

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COW TOWN book... Speaking of books, COW TOWN is one Richard created from an exhibition of cow art he also created for a previous series, SAVING GRACE. The book is an Easter egg in this series. See if you notice it propped on a counter or causally on a table or shelf! Photo courtesy of RCW/WBEI. All rights reserved.

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Leonard, childhood... Sheldon gave a party to watch the Nobel prize ceremony on TV, but no one came, since it was live in Norway, which meant in the wee hours in Texas. It gave him pause to wonder if he would have no friends to be there when he wins the Nobel prize in the future. In the finale of THE BIG BANG THEORY, we see his friends attend that very event. Here, his future friend, 8-year-old Leonard Hofsteader [Isaac Harger], is listening to the announcement in New Jersey. His mother said that he should be in bed. Photo by Michael Desmond ©2019 WBEI. All rights reserved.

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Leonard, childhood... This may seem a typical boy’s bedroom but check the corners for clues to the seeds of his future interests! Photo courtesy of RCW/WBEI. All rights reserved.



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