Dive into the intriguing and witty rabbit hole of the time-jumping RUSSIAN DOLL with a fascinating conversation Lisa Clark SDSA had with Set Decorator Lindsay Stephen SDSA and Production Designer Diane Lederman, the dynamic team for Season 2. Lisa perfectly described their work as “walking the tightrope between real and surreal.”
In the video, Lindsay mentions what they referred to as the “anachronistic object”, an element that would subtly suggest the change of time, whereas most of the setting would seem the same, i.e. different vending machines in the hospital set, or a change of the railway station clock.
And we asked her about a couple of the “new” sets that weren’t mentioned in the video conversation and for her take on a few additional questions.
Watch the video, read below...and enjoy!
We know you will!
Ruth’s Apartment... Ruth’s was established in the first season. The living room was transformed into the 1980s version. You see Nadia in Ruth’s present day living room when she is projecting onto the wall. We kept the spirit of the original dressing choices from Season 1, but did update some things for 2022. For the 1980s version, we tried to have fun with statement ‘80s pieces that were nicer and at a higher price point than Nora’s. The orange chairs had been recovered and somewhat structurally redesigned and are now rented out from Industry Props where they are called “the Lindsay Chair” which makes me laugh every time!
Vera’s Apartment... Vera’s is a completely new set. It exists in 1982, which is the version in the photos here, but also, we go further back in time to 1968 when Nora is a small child which is the dancing scene after Nadia realizes she can’t change the past. We took a lot of influence from Diane’s mother's house and the integration of a select few important pieces she brought from Hungary and new things she had acquired. An interesting challenge in Vera’s was that we had to have a couch that the bag of Krugerrands could fit under but also the couch itself had to fit through the very tight hallway and especially small door. We had a larger similar couch originally but ultimately went with the green velvet loveseat from Newel which added some richness to the set.
During filming, Kendall Anderson jumped on to help for a couple of weeks and helped with Nora’s Apt. We found a woman on Craigslist who collected vintage Betty Boop memorabilia. She had an entire room full of figurines! We wanted to dress some Bettys into Nora’s, and Kendall found one of her in a red sports car that looked like the Alfa Romeo that we see later in the season. It was perfect. Now it sits on my mantle and is a fun reminder of one of my favorite sets.
A whole set of Easter Eggs were the ads in the subway. Ashley Waldron, our amazing Clearance Coordinator, was able to clear ads that actually represented the arc of the show and provided subtle foreshadowing of the wild ride we were about to go on.
What have I learned from this project...
You are only as strong as the team that supports you. I had an incredible set dressing crew lead by Eddie DeCurtis. His crew is top notch and a pleasure to work with every day. The schedule on this job was incredibly challenging and had us dressing multiple large sets every day, all around the city! Because the set dressing crew was so strong, we were able to accomplish the beautiful sets seen this season. I also want to shout out to Jackie Goncalves and Tess Altman who were the Set Dec Coordinator and PA, respectively. They were the glue that held this project together.
The best day on RUSSIAN DOLL was when we completed the Alfa Romeo showroom and Crazy Eddie’s, two huge sets that shot back-to-back at one location. They were some of the best sets I have had the pleasure of working on and it really showed the caliber of the design and decoration of Season 2.
How Set Decorators help each other...
I have known Jessica Petrucelli for several years, long before RUSSIAN DOLL. When she found out I was decorating Season 2, she reached out to tell me about any challenges she faced in S1 and what she found helpful. Mainly, that the tile from the now iconic bathroom had a long lead time and that I should order it ASAP. I took her advice, and had she not let me know of that, there is no way the tile would have shown up in time. Jess is an incredible Set Decorator and someone I love to work with and look forward to a long career alongside each other.
What I am working on next...
I just finished working with the team from RUSSIAN DOLL Season 1 on the new Netflix show JIGSAW. I was lucky enough to work with Jessica and with Michael Bricker, John Cox and Charlene Wang de Chen. I learned so much from these Emmy award-winning artists.
And I know I mentioned them in the video interview, but I have to give another shout out to my incredible resources this project...and most of my other projects!
There are so many super SDSA Business members, and these are some I rely on the most...
Scott, Cameron and the whole crew are always stellar. They pull things faster than anyone and always help find the perfect lighting. They provided the two sets of identical vintage sconces in the mirrored bathroom in Nora’s, which was a tall order.
Provided the red carpets for Alfa Romeo, which was the set dressing element that really tied the room together and they slottted me into their schedule in order to bind the carpets on time, for which I am eternally grateful.
The main couch in Nora’s apt was from Eclectic and was the perfect edition to the 80s aesthetic. It was purchased by Diane decades ago when she was a decorator and came around full circle. They also let me ship two cushions to Budapest for a very important insert shot.
Eric is always one of my favorite vendors to work with not only because of how helpful and attentive he is to every person that walks in the door but also the lovely conversation I look forward to having every time I go in.
Christine and the gang are LIFE SAVERS. They would put in extra time helping us pull items last minute due to schedule constraints and always made sure we could get what we needed. In Vera’s apartment, there were dimension constraints for the entryway door which made most couches impossible to fit, but Christine helped me figure out what could work.
This is the first time I have worked with them, and they helped us source so many of the electronics for Crazy Eddies, which was over 100 different pieces of period electronics! Thank you PS!
Mike Sime and his crew worked overtime for us when decorating Crazy Eddie’s, not only helping us source, but also working on prepping all the TVs for the video wall playback on two large displays. Always grateful for them.
My old friends (I worked there for a few months when I moved to NY) have been instrumental in my career moving from a PA to Set Decorator and the points between. We were always challenged with time and the schedule, and State would work miracles to get us set dressing in time.
Art for Film
Another one of my favorite vendors who provided a significant amount of the artwork seen in the iconic apartment set.
Editor’s note:Be sure to click on the video above to see clips and more images from the show and get fascinating insider details from Set Decorator Lindsay Stephen SDSA and Production Designer Diane Lederman!