July 19th, 2021 by JoAnn Vara
Spencer James [Daniel Ezra], an aspiring, talented football player, has dreams of a professional NFL career, but first he must navigate high school. In ALL AMERICAN, we meet Spencer living with his mother and little brother in South Central Los Angeles. Soon afterwards, he finds himself with a new home in Beverly Hills, worlds apart from what he has known, as his life rapidly changes.
Set Decorator Adrianna Lopez SDSA talks with JoAnn Vara for SETDECOR, giving perspective and details about creating the dynamic look of the series with Production Designer Hugh D.G. Moody and their teams. Each of the sets of this beloved, top-rated show on Netflix accurately denote place, individual tastes, cultures and families, while always imbued with style no matter the monetary scale.
We know you’ll enjoy!
Karen Burg, Editor
Spencer’s family...Life at the James home in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles. Spencer James, his brother Dillon and their mother, Grace, gather around the family table for breakfast. Daniel Ezra as Spencer James, Jalyn Hall as Dillon James, Karimah Westbrook as Grace James. Photo by Patrick Wymore ©2018 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
SET DECOR: How did you get started as a Set Decorator, and when did you join the SDSA?
Set Decorator Adrianna Lopez SDSA: I started as PA in the art department on BATMAN AND ROBIN, trying to learn about what exactly a Set Decorator and Production Designer did. This was my first encounter after leaving the corporate world as a PR Director for the Univision Network in Los Angeles. I joined the SDSA as a student, then as an Associate member when I became a Set Decoration Buyer, now as a Set Decorator and a member of the SDSA Board of Directors! The SDSA is always a great tool of support and networking.
SD: ALL AMERICAN is a fan favorite. How did the project come to you?
AL: ALL AMERICAN came to me as a referral from a dear Set Decorator friend of mine, Jane Shirkes.
SD: How did you approach the key sets like Grace & Spencer James's home in Compton and Coach Baker's Beverly Hills home?
AL: Both sets were great fun to establish! I rely on the story/script first and then my research takes me further to start giving life to their environment.
Grace is a hard-working single mother who created a loving, secure home for her kids, despite what went outside her door. We needed a joyful, peaceful space. For that, color was key...the richness of the burnt orange sofa, the textured/patterned drapes, the mustard yellow, cream, brown, earth tones throughout. The throw blanket that I decided has been in the family for generations, and a lot more details, made the perfect environment for her family.
The James family home...An inviting space with style, even on a limited income. Photo courtesy The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
The James family home...More details of the warm and nurturing environment Grace James has created for her boys. Inset: Spencer has a talk with his little brother. Daniel Ezra, Jalyn Hall. Photo by Jesse Giddings ©2019 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
Sunny California, beaches, open spaces and a great wave photograph by Stephanie Hogue were my inspiration for the set for Coach Baker’s home.
The Baker house: The elegant and breezy coastal feel of Coach Baker’s home in Beverly Hills, less than 10 miles, but worlds away. Photo courtesy The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
The Baker house...Open floorplan, bright white walls and luxury accents. Coach Billy Baker [Taye Diggs] with Spencer [Daniel Ezra] and the Baker twins, Olivia [Samantha Logan] and Jordan [Michael Evans Behling]. Photo by Jesse Giddings ©2018 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
The Baker house...Coach Billy Baker’s wife, Laura, is a high-powered lawyer who is all about structure and discipline, as evidenced in the beautifully defined kitchen. Photo courtesy The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
SD: Are these key sets shot on a studio lot or on location?
AL: The interiors of these two key sets are filmed on the Warner Bros. Studios lot.
The Baker house...Laura Fine-Baker and her children. Beautiful family, beautiful home. Monét Mazur as Laura, Samantha Logan as Olivia, Michael Evans Behling as Jordan. Photo by Tina Thorpe ©2019 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
SD: All American is set in California, in modern day, at some incredible locations. What is it like to work in LA on a show set in California?
AL: It's great to represent the actual location...my inspiration, research, resources are out of my window!
SD: What are the vehicles you use for visual character development and storytelling?
AL: I love textiles/fabrics. To me, they tell fascinating stories.
The Baker house...Outdoor dining room and living room flow from the French doors and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, echoing the beach atmosphere of the interiors, grounded with strong textiles. Photo courtesy The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
SD: How important are your vendors when creating your sets?
AL: Our vendors are KEY to our business! They have and/or create the fabulous goods that I use to dress my sets and help me tell the story. I'm lucky to be working on the WB lot, where I have the support of the Warner Bros. prop house, and drapery, upholstery and other crafts, all under one roof. I also use other vendors, such as Lennie Marvin’s Propheaven, Air Designs, RC Vintage, Practical Props, Floral Design by Dave's Flowers, Green Set, Exclusive Sales and Rentals, Sandy Rose Floral, Omega|Cinema Props, U Frame It Gallery, Universal Studios Property, Hollywood Studio Gallery, EC Prop Rentals, Hollywood Piano, and Art Pic. All play an intricate part in my show.
Slauson Café...The artful hangout of the South Crenshaw High students and neighborhood families.
Note the coffee table made from pallets! You’ll see more of this clever recycling/up-purposing in photos below. Inset: Chelsea Tavares as Patience. Photo by Anne Marie Fox ©2021 The CW Network.
SD: ALL AMERICAN is a fan favorite and enjoyed even greater popularity during the pandemic. Can you speak to how it became even more popular over the last year?
AL: Yes, I'm very proud that it became the #1 Netflix show during the pandemic lockdown. The writing, headed by our show runner Nkechi Okoro Carroll, and our writing staff is superb. They create stories from our current reality, and at the same time, entertain the audience with all of the drama and juice that can come from high school. People found great joy and refuge when watching the show.
SD: Please tell us about your collaboration with the Production Designer Hugh D.G. Moody...
AL: Collaborating with D.G. has been a rewarding experience. He usually presents me with the idea /vision, and from there, we start our process, I like to create my boards covering all aspects of the set and how I see it. We will then go back and forth until we get the look that will tell the story.
The Baker house...Contemporary, upscale and invitingly filled with art and music, there’s a sense that each piece has been carefully chosen by Laura for the stylish Baker residence. Note the sculpture of wooden blocks echoing the recycling/up-purposing, and the refined use of textiles. Photo courtesy The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
SD: You create so many sets straddling different realities. What have been your favorite sets of the series?
AL: Favorite sets! I have a few, but my darling one is The Slauson Cafe. This is the space where Spencer, Coops, Patience, plus other characters from South Crenshaw High School and the community, congregate to celebrate their wins and reflect on their loses. It’s a place with a soul. All of the art is original, it came from artists that I met from the Leimert Park community, particularly the work of Keenan Chapman, Jacqui C. Smith and Donare Davis.
Our construction department made furniture out of wood pallets for us, I used lots of beautiful mudcloth to upholster furniture, and my crew made custom lighting.
Slauson Café...Clever, artful use of materials, from floorboards as canvas to mudcloth upholstered club chairs and recycled metal pendant light. Photo courtesy The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
Lauren Lustig, my buyer [SDSA Associate member] and I had a great time discovering new shops, cementing new relationships and buying our smalls all over West Adams district, South Central and Leimert Park. That's the fun and the beauty of my show, it works in present time and at a real location.
SD: Were there any set pieces you needed to custom design and create?
AL: Yes, for the Hangout, a sports-themed restaurant in Beverly Hills, where the Beverly High characters get together. For that set, I bought an old bowling alley floor to make our counter and tabletops. I also had neon lighting manufactured, designed as X and O representing football plays. And had custom shelves made, anchored by a great find, an early 70's BSA Starfire 250cc black motorcycle.*
The Hangout...Which is what best-friends Layla [Greta Onieogou], Olivia [Samantha Logan] and Coop [Bre-Z] are doing. The Beverly Hills sports-themed restaurant was anchored by an early 70’s BSA Starfire 250cc black motorcycle. Click on SHOW MORE PHOTOS and keep scrolling down to see it in full! Photo ©2021 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.
SD: How important is your crew on a show like this?
AL: My team is everything on the show, I could not do it without them! Lauren Lustig, my buyer/right hand and Keith Sale, my lead, who keeps all together, and crew...Lindsey Sjoberg, Mike Lerner, Austin Singer, Jose Gomez, Raul Ortiz, plus our office support, Hassan Tazi and Alex Hunter...are all my backbone that makes it all possible!
Adrianna can also add accomplished Interior Designer to her list of professional accolades. She has been most recently featured in a Rizzoli Art & Design book: THE SPANISH STYLE HOUSE: FROM ENCHANTED ANDALUSIA TO THE CALIFORNIA DREAM. [Click on BOOKS in the RESOURCES section above.]
Adrianna says of her work and this book: “It reflects my love and respect for Spanish architecture and the marriage of the two cultures, Moorish and Spanish...including a designed sanctuary...practical spaces that remind us of happy moments lived before."
*Editor’s note: Click on SHOW MORE PHOTOS below to discover much more of the Slauson Café, the Hangout, and the families’ homes!