August 20th, 2023 by Halina Siwolop SDSA

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Perry Mason’s office: The office has remained the visual anchor throughout the series. Set Decorator Halina Siwolop SDSA points out, “When Perry inherits the office, he changes little of it, except for putting up some memorabilia from his late mentor. This was done intentionally, as Perry is still uncomfortable being a lawyer and hasn’t fully settled into his role. Della, not quite a full lawyer, shares Perry’s space, as she’s no longer the receptionist, doesn’t quite know what her new role is and has no desk space of her own.” Chris Chalk as Investigator Paul Drake, Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason, Juliet Rylance as Della Street. Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO ©2023

Set Decorator Halina Siwolop SDSA

Production Designer Keith Cunningham


“The origin story of famed criminal defense lawyer Perry Mason [Matthew Rhys] continued in the second season with Perry in the throes of the Los Angeles legal system during the height of the Great Depression. Months after the Dodson trial shook the city, Perry is readjusting to life as a civil attorney when a high-profile murder case brings him back into the fold.” - HBO

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Perry Mason’s office: “Perry, Della and Paul all share the main office, crammed together, trying to solve the case. The window treatments are a carry-over from the first season, providing visual texture to the otherwise ordinary lawyer’s office. Although still shot as a noir piece, this season was about bringing in more light and expanding the visual context by shooting more exterior locations.” Chris Chalk, Matthew Rhys, Juliet Rylance. Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO ©2023

The second season of PERRY MASON was a study in contrasts: brighter, yet at times even more noirish than the first, evoking the possibilities and yet the unease and great inequalities of the 1930s in the throes of the Great Depression.

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Courtroom, McCutcheon murder trial: “This new courtroom for season two, is still grand, although on a smaller scale from the first season. The most impressive details are the beautiful murals that capture the essence of California at that time. My favorite set pieces are the amazing sconces that we ordered from a reproduction source online. Finding the right lights in the correct scale was key to our courtroom design.” Peter Mendoza, Fabrizio Guido, Juliet Rylance, Matthew Rhys. Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO ©2023

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District Attorney Hamilton Burger’s office: “Hamilton Burger’s office needed to be well-appointed, comfortable and show his status as the District Attorney. We used rich tones in gold, black and burgundy and kept it relatively uncluttered. This was definitely the place to smoke a good cigar after a long court case.” Photos courtesy HBO, inset: Justin Kirk as Hamilton Burger, photo by Merrick Morton/HBO.

The series is set in the time period the original novels were released, and the team seamlessly takes us there, from monied luxurious parlors to the impoverished camps of the disenfranchised and homeless. We asked Halina...set decorator for both of the deep, expressive seasons of this edition of Erle Stanley Gardner’s now iconic characters and stories...about the essence of this second season.
“We keyed this season on bringing in more light, making it look more expansive, and creating really interesting sets of places and moments that would have been common in 1933. We designed two floating casinos, crafted period water boats, dressed and designed an entire Hooverville shanty town and the classic early Los Angeles Olvera Street, also a Palm Springs getaway...Season two was hard, a push, but fun and really fulfilling. We’re so proud of what we were able to accomplish on an extremely tight budget and with limited period resources.”

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Luxe Casino: "Trying to conjure up a 1930’s era casino was a real challenge for us… especially since we built a set within the basement of the Biltmore Hotel. This, of course, led to many set dressing challenges, such as covering things we didn’t want to see, hanging curtains where we couldn’t go into the walls, and of course, building period casino tables and slot machines in the quantity that we needed. We created our own lighting fixtures by hanging black shades, fringed with gold… all hanging from cross bars that the grip department rigged for us.” Casino photo by Michael Manson. Inset: Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason, photo by Merrick Morton/HBO.

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Devious, talented socialite Camilla Nygaard’s home: “Camilla was an extremely wealthy, ruthless woman who collected antiquities wherever she traveled. We filmed in an extremely modern interior, where again, we were challenged by what we could hang and decorate. The standing screens were our solution to avoid hanging artwork on walls that we couldn’t put nails into. Much of the décor was based on how we could make the space work. We gave her set dressing Asian touches to emphasize her travels abroad.” Hope Davis as Camilla (standing at piano), Juliet Rylance as Della (right). Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO ©2023

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Radio station: KKCU Los Angeles. “Looking into the window from the radio show audience, you can see the world of radio broadcasting. It was so fun to research what this space looked like in 1933 and there’s a beauty in its simplicity and functionality.” Photo courtesy HBO.

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Radio station: KKCU Los Angeles. “This set is yet another example of how we used curtains everywhere. These were used to muffle sound, but the different layers also create a nice texture. The Foley artist’s tools were fun to research and acquire, thanks to our friends at History for Hire.” Photo courtesy HBO.

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Olvera Street detail: “The original Olvera Street was so sweet and was a popular tourist attraction in the 1930s. We researched it endlessly and came up with our own vendors to showcase.” Photo courtesy HBO.

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Olvera Street: “With food, drink and various décor, our 1930's Olvera was a great collaboration between the Set Dressing and Props department. Our booths ran the length of the alleyway and was a delightful set to stroll through.” [Blue screen at the end of the alley to place period-appropriate buildings in front of contemporary LA!] Photo courtesy HBO.

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Della's paramour, Anita’s getaway, Palm Springs. “Designing a Palm Springs bungalow was a highlight of the season. Within the rustic Spanish interiors, we created cozy and textured spaces to escape to, from the hustle of Los Angeles. I loved the curtains we had made here, edged with beautiful gimp to add a vintage touch.” Photos courtesy HBO. Inset: Juliet Rylance as Della, Jen Tullock as Anita, photo by Merrick Morton/HBO.

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Assessor’s office: “Although this was yet another period office space that we decorated, knowing that it was an Assessor’s office helped us in making it interesting and layered. Piles of paperwork, boxes and maps all add to the busy environment of mapping the future city of Los Angeles.” Photo courtesy HBO.

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Central Avenue: “This market was a location in San Pedro where we stripped away as much of the modern details that we could, or hid what we couldn’t. Our graphics department did an amazing job with period-correct signage and then we came in with set dressing pieces to make it look authentic.” Photo by Michael Manson, courtesy HBO. All rights reserved.