September 1st, 2023 by Jennifer Gentile SDSA + Karen Burg

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Bug Lair. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/™ © DC Comics

Set Decorator Jennifer Gentile SDSA

Production Designer John Billington

Warner Bros.

The newest comic-book superhero to come to life, BLUE BEETLE is a story equally about family, but of course, there’s high-tech involved and some wannabe tech...a fun twist on the genre, with some "secret" sets redolent of the ‘80s.

Set Decorator Jennifer Gentile SDSA happily collaborated with Production Designer John Billington to create the range of sets for this new-to-the-screen, unique superhero story, which springs from the original Mystery Men Comics #1, published in 1939! As comic book heroes often do, the Blue Beetle morphed into several iterations, including brilliant inventor Ted Kord, and today’s Jaime Reyes. So, John, Jennifer and their teams were creating sets reflecting current day, with throwbacks to the 1970s/1980s and early 2000, i.e. the Bug Lair set above. 
“Recent college grad Jaime Reyes [Xolo Maridueña] returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Superhero BLUE BEETLE.” --Warner Bros.
Palmera City and Edge Keys... 
John describes a new city, created especially for this iteration of the Blue Beetle story.
Palmera City is the newest city in the DC universe. Vibrantly colorful and tech-infused, with futuristic Neo-Miami vibes, it is extremely advanced and futuristic, with an aesthetic including neon colors and holograms.” 
“Colorful and bustling, with its music and many residents, Edge Keys, where Jaime and the Reyes family live, is the working-class area that surrounds Palmera City. With the City’s continuous growth, Edge Keys is gentrifying, and its citizens are in danger of being pushed out of the neighborhood they have always known.”

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Edge Keys: “A yuppie farmers market sits behind a chain link fence, with the city looming in the background. Pink crosses are a reminder of the femicide crisis in Ciudad Juarez,” Set Decorator Jennifer Gentile SDSA reveals. “Certain themes important to Director Ángel Manuel Soto are woven throughout the film.” Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The film was shot in and around Atlanta, and in San Juan, Puerto Rico for major additional action sequences and high-end sets. But unlike most superhero depictions, the heart of the film is the family.

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Reyes home. Elpidia Carrillo as Rocio Reyes, George Lopez as Uncle Rudy, Xolo Maridueña as Jaime Reyes, Belissa Escobedo as Milagro Reyes, Damian Alcazar as Alberto. Reyes. Photo by Hopper Stone SMPSP © 2023 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved. TM & © DC.

 Reyes House: Set build, Atlanta... 
“It was important that the Reyes home reflected the love this family felt for each other while also telling the story of their economic struggle,” Jennifer notes. “It’s modest yet comfortable. We used warm woods and colors true to the family’s Mexican roots. From the start of production, the Reyes set was my focus, since this is the heart of the story.”

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Reyes family kitchen. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Reyes family kitchen. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“Our Director, Ángel Manuel Soto, wanted authenticity and was very specific at times, pulling from his own childhood memories. The house wanted to be filled with memories and personality. Family and extended family photos were peppered throughout the set, as well as religious iconography. The set dressing needed to be full of life...worn, but loved.”

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Reyes family living room. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Reyes family living room. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“Most of the shopping in Atlanta was from Facebook Marketplace, Goodwill and Fiesta Place to name a few. I was also able to visit El Mercadito in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles while on break, and brought back some specifics dressed into the Reyes kitchen. A lot of the research came from Boyle Heights. It’s a wonderful market I’ve gone to for many years...and they have the best Churros!”

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Jaime’s bedroom. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Jaime’s bedroom. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Jaimie’s bedroom was packed full of nods to the original Blue Beetle comic. The original comic character was from El Paso, Texas. Some of the stickers, books and a few posters are from book artists Angel met while visiting that area.”
Bug Lair, Kord Mansion: Set build, Atlanta...
“The Bug Lair was so much fun to create and to dress...whimsical yet practical. Untouched since Ted Kord’s disappearance in the mid-2000s, hidden underground below the Kord Mansion, it had technology left behind from the 1970s and 1980s. The overall vibe is a touch of the ‘80s with a dash of Memphis flare and a color palette in turquoise blues, purple and pink.”

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Bug Lair: Per Jennifer, “Blue Beetle costume possibilities designed by inventor extraordinaire Ted Kord. He was a boxer in the comics, and also struggled with his weight, hence the pillow strapped to the mannequin.” Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“Collaborating with John on ideas was creatively refreshing and his design choices were fun to build upon, as reflected in the supercomputer which was modeled after the polaroid camera.”

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Bug Lair: Supercomputer. Courtesy of Warner Bros

“The Bug Liar had different sections including robotics and time travel, drafting and design, a lounge, a boxing and rehabilitation gym, and a children’s area for his daughter Jenny. The lab was filled with renderings, models, and character-specific books. The rehab equipment was to establish that Ted Kord originally built the Omac, possibly for artificial limb research.”

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Bug Lair: Lounge. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Bug Lair: Workshop. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Jennifer reveals, “Easter Eggs include a pallet of Oreo cookies shrink-wrapped on the deck sitting by the Bug Dock doors. This is a nod to “Chocos” and Martian Manhunter. There’s a Nixon dartboard, which appeared in Ted Kord’s office in the comics. On the supercomputer, you will see the book DECIPHERING ANCIENT EGYPT by Dan Garrett, who was the first Blue Beetle.”
Editor’s note: For additional photos of the awesomely retro Bug Lair click on SHOW MORE PHOTOS below!
Bug Ship, hidden in the Kord Mansion: Set build, Atlanta...
John fills us in on the history, “The Bug Ship is a long-forgotten but fortified creation of Ted Kord. Built from blue metal with two windows resembling bulbous yellow eyes and “legs” protruding from its sides, the craft is aptly named for its ability to transport passengers via both flight and crawling.” 
Jennifer adds, “The Bug Ship interior was another explosion of vintage tech with a dash of Ted Kord whimsy.  The blue and purple upholstery tied in the Bug Liar purple wash. Color pops add to the chaos with orange seatbelts and the red patterned carpet. The crew did an amazing job layering in the gack, especially since they had to dress it at 20 feet off the ground as it was already on its FX rig!”  [Click on SHOW MORE PHOTOS below!]
Kord Mansion Bedroom & Foyer: Location in Puerto Rico...
“The vintage flare of 1980’s set dressing for Ted Kord’s mansion was something that needed to be shopped in Atlanta before leaving for Puerto Rico. One of the biggest challenges was getting the container packed during our heaviest weeks of Atlanta stage work so it would arrive in time. Both crews in Atlanta and Puerto Rico were great! With such a condensed shooting schedule, I was amazed that we pulled it off.” [Click on SHOW MORE PHOTOS below!]
Victoria Kord’s Mansion, current day: Location in Puerto Rico...
“Brilliant and chic villainess Victoria Kord’s home showcased a number of local talented artists. Her sharp fragmented persona was reflected in the set dressing and art.” [Click on SHOW MORE PHOTOS below!]
KORD Tower: Atlanta Location...
“There was a lot of detail in creating a museum case technology, behind the desk which held the hero watch. My favorite part of this location is that we had Robots courtesy of Eclipse. Great location choice from John, the building was designed by prominent Atlanta Architect John Portman.” [Click on SHOW MORE PHOTOS below!]
Scarab Lab, Kord Tower: Atlanta Location... 
“Atlanta has everything needed for these futuristic lab sets. Having worked there quite often in the early and mid-2000s, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of resources available now with prop houses and fabrication shops.” [Click on SHOW MORE PHOTOS below!]
Pagos Island Lab : Atlanta Set build...
"This was one of the larger set builds, to accomodate all the third act action sequences. The exterior of Pagos Island was shot on location in Puerto Rico at Castillo de San Cristóbal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro.” [Click on SHOW MORE PHOTOS below!]
Thank you to Jennifer and John for all the insider info! 
Be sure to see the film in a theater, as it should be seen!
Then come back revisit the sets right here!