By SDSA BusinessMember Newel Props - Thursday, May 14th
May 14, 2020
What is the biggest challenge in decorating The Blacklist?
A native of South Carolina, Shelley graduated from Furman University with a Bachelor of Music degree, hoping one day to be a famous trumpet player. When that didn’t quite work out, she went on to the MFA program at Northwestern University in set design. From Northwestern, Shelley moved to Washington, DC where she was prop master at the Washington Opera for two years before moving to New York City.
After freelancing in New York for a year, she was hired as the prop master at The Manhattan Theater Club, where she stayed for 12 years. While at MTC, she assisted on several Broadway and Lincoln Center plays and musicals. A desire to make more money without having to work six jobs at a time led to a lengthy stint as a decorator on the soap opera, “Guiding Light”, for which she was nominated for three Daytime Emmy awards.
As the popularity of soaps began to dwindle, Shelley was accepted into Local 52, and assisted on several projects, including Ugly Betty and Boardwalk Empire. From there, she went on to decorate several pilots, a few independent films, and the TV shows Unforgettable, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, The Big C, and now, The Blacklist. In her spare time, Shelley trains and hangs out with her two dogs, Homer and Archie.
Shelley Barclay on Decorating The Blacklist
Q. What is the biggest challenge in decorating The Blacklist?
A. The biggest challenge in decorating The Blacklist is time! There’s never enough. We only have two standing sets, so we build quite a few sets for every episode, in addition to decorating lots of locations.
Q. Can you tell us about your design inspiration?
A. I’m not sure about “inspiration.” I feel like it’s more “collaboration.” We all –our designer, Nick Lundy, our art director, Bradley Schmidt, my assistant, Kate Foster, and I–work very closely together. When time permits, we get inspiration photos and research from Nick and then go to work on his ideas given budget, labor, and time limitations. Kate and I also do our own research. Mercifully, Nick is very flexible when we can’t find exactly what he wants! We’ve all worked together for so long that we’ve developed a trust and appreciation for each other’s talents and a realization of the constraints of episodic television.
Q. What three adjectives would you use to describe the design of The Blacklist
A. Varied, detailed, sometimes crazy!
Q. What is your favorite room/set?
A. I don’t think I can pick just one set. The fun/interesting part of decorating The Blacklist is that we are constantly doing sets that are kind of “out there.” We’ve done a barn with rats and roaches in tanks, a roadside serpentarium, an abandoned subway station office with a pneumatic messaging system, a clock shop, a tailor’s shop, abandoned houses, attics, basements, traveling operating rooms, a plane crash, a ferry boat crash–it’s not your normal “cop show,” which certainly keeps things interesting.
Q. Did you collaborate or discuss your design ideas with other set decorators?
A. I’ll occasionally pick someone’s brain about where to get a particular item or to remind me of a certain vendor (hi, Lisa and Sheila!) I rely quite heavily on my assistant, Kate Foster, who’s amazing. Kate and I both come from theater design backgrounds, share a similar love for detail, and a work ethic for getting the job done on time and on budget. We also are able to finish each other’s sentences. We also have an amazing crew of set dressers and the city’s best lead man, Gerry Pineo…but I digress…