THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT
December 24th, 2020 by Karen Burg & Jessica Petruccelli SDSA
SET DECOR checked in with Set Decorator Jessica Petruccelli SDSA for details about the spectacular sets she, Production Designer Sara K White and their teams created for the high-flying thriller THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT, featuring the comedic and now also dramatic talents of star Kaley Cuoco. The panache, wit and style of the series is visually stunning as well as intriguing, and the luxe main set keeps drawing us back, revealing more and more as it takes us deeper into the mystery!
Jessica generously takes us through the key sets and then hits on highpoints we had wondered about. We know you’ll enjoy!
Best of holiday wishes from all of us at SET DECOR!
Karen Burg, Editor
Makara Prince Hotel Suite, ultra-luxury hotel, Bangkok, Thailand...
The Makara Prince Hotel suite is the set that really drew me in when Production Designer Sara K White first reached out to me to decorate. It was a large scale build that called for luxe materials and sensuous textiles and furniture. I had never done a set like this before, at this scale, and it really gave the opportunity to do a deep dive with my team, finding dressing that was uniquely high-end and gave the viewer a sense of place.
Makara Prince Hotel Suite...The sensuous undulating chair by Kenneth Cobonpue and unique chandelier immediately give a visual dimension and definition to the space. Photo by Spencer Lasky. Courtesy of HBO Max.
We wanted the furnishings to emphasize the dark and seductive qualities of this contemporary noir while keeping details, shapes, and materials some traditional and others evocative of Thai design. Design Lush has such special pieces with strong dynamic lines and the luxe materials we were seeking, I knew they would have some stunning pieces for us, including the curvaceous chair by Kenneth Cobonpue that anchors the living room. It was such a special piece that it inspired some of the unique shapes and forms my team and I went searching for in other pieces.
This and a few other elements in the suite incorporate shape and materials that harken back to the tropical climate of Bangkok. We tied in traditional Thai materials like teak and raw silk in many aspects of the dressing and incorporated a lotus flower pattern across textiles and both wooden and die-cut metal paneled screens throughout the suite.
Makara Prince Hotel Suite Bedroom...A blend of contemporary and cultural, Thai-inspired lotus pattern screen, finials on the bedside lamps evoking Thai temples, a modern lotus on the book-match marble wall, the enveloping Thai silk headboard, plus a chair echoing the sculptural undulations of the key piece defining the living room. Vastly different individual spaces that evolve from and balance one another... Photo by Spencer Lasky. Courtesy of HBO Max.
This set was really the product of work across so many art department members. Art Director Christine Foley and I worked very closely on cross-over fabrications between Set Dec and Construction and Scenic, as we had to dream up the best ways to go about creating special hardware, panels, glass fittings and lighting that were custom.
We knew the suite was going to go through many changes over the course of the season that would really rely on major dressing and lighting changes to create extremes in Cassie’s [Kaley Cuoco] internal version of the space. Between bringing in heaps of shredded paper as a physical manifestation of a clue she has found, or a 12-foot tower of illuminated vodka bottles that symbolized her alcoholism, this set kept me on my toes all season! [See gallery] We wanted everything to feel visually rich and seductive so it would be impossible for Cassie not to get caught up in the mood of this first evening she spends with Alex [Michiel Huisman] in Bangkok.
This set was on location in Tribeca, a full dress and on a very short timeline...I believe we had 2 days to dress all those rooms. We wanted to incorporate a bit of the old-world wealth from his parent’s house with a more modern take on this young bachelor’s home. We employed a palette of black, deep greens and dark brown wood and incorporated a mix of classic and uniquely contemporary pieces to create the blend of old and new we were going for. Design Lush yet again had some really special pieces for this set including the leather coffee table and truly stunning Z desk in the study. I wish the full form of that desk had gotten more screen time, but we all know how it goes. Suite New York, 1stDibs gallery, and smalls from John Koch filled out this set.
Alex Sokolov’s loft apartment... Incorporating a bit of the old-world wealth from his parent’s house with a more modern take for a young bachelor’s home, with a bit of sardonic whimsy...and visual references to the luxurious hotel suite, which also defines him...Photo by Spencer Lasky. Courtesy of HBO Max.
I have to give our set dressing team a real shout out for carrying the Chesterfield sofa up 10 flights of stairs when we realized it just couldn’t angle into the elevator. That one was a nail-biter, especially since we were only dressing a few days before filming. I owe them so much gratitude for making it work!
The script also called for artwork with women whose faces are obscured. We wanted these pieces to truly be artful in their illustration of the female form to the point that Cassie is questioning if it’s eerie or high-art. We called on photographer Corwin Prescott, whom I had worked with before. He had some evocative pieces that really captured this feeling.
This was another large build for us. The shooting crew were filming in Rome, which gave us some rare additional time to shop for the set, allowing us to go to some vendors we normally wouldn’t have the time for. Annie’s loft is bold, modern and minimalist with a cohesive palette of gray, mauve and periwinkle indigo blues. Sara had some really fun and inspiring reference images on ideas she was looking to achieve with this set for Cassie’s best friend, high-powered attorney Annie Mouradian [Zosia Mamet].
Annie’s loft... “The loft has almost no solid walls between rooms. This was to show Annie’s unexpected boldness by making private spaces more public. After all, she does have a completely see-through shower in the middle of her living room!” Photo by Spencer Lasky. Courtesy of HBO Max.
The loft has almost no solid walls between rooms. This was to show Annie’s unexpected boldness by making private spaces more public. After all, she does have a completely see-through shower in the middle of her living room! This was written into the script and helped to inform many of the design choices for this space. The shower itself was a real project to find and procure, which my Assistant Set Decorator, Charlene Wang de Chen, took on. It took about 4 weeks to make – it was definitely the first thing we started sourcing for this set, due to its custom nature.
The bold and beautiful artwork in Annie’s came from local artist Crys Yin, as well as some colorful and dream-like pieces by Jane Dell and Anna Kunz that we rented from Art for Film. We had some incredible lighting fixtures on this set from local lighting designers. These sculptural and unusual light fixtures really push Annie’s unique design perspective. The fun and challenge with shopping for Annie’s is her aesthetic is so stylized that truly everything, down to the light switch covers...specific round black switch plates from the UK found by our Buyer Katie Lobel...were specially sourced or custom made, nothing on this set was standard.
--For more photos, see galleries above and below!--
This set was on location in a beautiful estate in Long Island. For the rooms on the first floor, including the hallway and the great room, it was really about bringing in a layer of artwork and rugs as well as all the lovely memorial flowers from Tess at Aisling Flowers to flesh out the look of these rooms. The two full redresses we did here were Janet Sokolov’s study and the sunroom.
I entrusted Charlene with much of these two sets. Newel Props was an amazing resource for these rooms, Christine Murray really helped us out on this one! Charlene and I had such a fun time tying in classic antiques with some more modern elegant touches for the sunroom. There is a pair of striped Swedish Biedermeier armchairs from Newel which I was just in love with, as well as that French Victorian corner cabinet. We wanted to blend stately light-wood antiques with elegant lamps and textiles. And of course the large trees! Sara wanted to make sure we scaled up on some of the greenery and Charlene found these fabulous orange trees to fit the bill. The study was another full dress, we wallpapered the room and brought in rugs and art as well some more great pieces from Newel and English Country Antiques.
Cassie’s apartment is a set we only see briefly, as the Makara Prince Hotel suite becomes much more a pivotal character set for her where elements of her psyche are expressed. We dressed her apartment in a way to show she has an eye for pieces, like the grass cloth étagère, fun neon, a unique vintage couch from Furnish Green. And there was more sofa drama! Here, we had to actually cut the sofa in half to get it up to the location and then put it back together upstairs. Luckily, one of our set dressers was a seamstress and was able to sew the cut upholstery so it didn’t show!
Bowden House, Cassie’s childhood home...
The flashbacks with Cassie’s childhood home bring up some traumatic memories for Cassie that she is still dealing with throughout the series. The flashbacks take place in 1995 upstate New York. We spent time finding the right combination of curtain fabrics, wallpaper and furniture that felt both of the era and place. We used elements from both the ‘70s and ‘80s, as the Bowdens wouldn’t have had anything too new, also keeping in mind the rural setting of their home. Jeanelle Marie, my 2nd Assistant Set Dec, found a great collection of vintage curtain fabrics that helped this through line. Our couch was from Mod Props, and we got a great many period smalls and details from Anything But Costumes. The ‘70s fridge was a period find rented from Ron Fennick at Fennick NYC.
This set was dressed right before we shut down due to Covid. The location’s homeowners were real troopers to keep the dressing in place and accessible...including the fridge! Thankfully, it was a working piece, since they had to use it for the 6 months production was put on pause.
When we were able to come back to work after the pandemic haitus, there was a need to build some sets that were originally slotted to be locations, for safety and logistic reasons. Fuller’s Bar was one of those sets. Originally, we were going to film in a dive bar in the East Village but instead it became a major build at Kaufman Studios. The actual bar and back bar were to be built as well, but with a tight timeline we ended up being tasked with finding existing ones that could be installed on the stage. Lindsay Stephen, my 2nd Assistant Set Decorator after the Covid break, helped track down a full bar setup from Irreplaceable Artifacts in the Bronx that was the right look and fit. It was great fun finding and dreaming up all the little details that give a dive bar an authentic look.
Unisphere Asset Management...
This set was an exercise in minimalism and gray tones. The space is meant to feel large, modern, looming, somewhat overwhelming. We brought in a huge, curved couch to establish an imposing anchor in that sparse space. Art for Filmhad some excellent pieces that the fit the palette and motif that we blew up large scale and Max at OJ Gallery did an amazing job framing for us. The small sculptural bowls, as well as minimalist calla lily arrangements, helped set the tone. The giant rabbit sculpture is the star piece. Sara and Christine did an amazing job conceiving and making this sculpture, along with multiples for the falling stunt!
As the mystery evolves, we see further aspects of a key set…
The Makara Suite plays the role of Cassie’s mental space throughout the series. Different objects or settings from her past and present physically manifest into the suite as she works through them. This is such a unique way to so specifically see a set you have created take on its own evolution mirroring a character’s emotional journey.
We employed different types of reflective surfaces...obscured rain glass, large scale windows, mirrors and glossy marble...to represent different ways Cassie looks back at that first night in the suite. At times, a more obscured version of what happened, and other times a clearer reflection of herself as she investigates and learns about her own past.
Collaboration, beginning to end...
Sara comes from the interior design world, so we were really able to speak the same language in terms of furniture and decorating elements. I had 7 weeks of initial prep. Once we started filming there were various stops and starts due to the crew filming abroad and Covid which allowed for some additional prep, so it wasn’t a straight forward timeline. We were the first show in NY that went back to filming, so when we started back, some prop houses still weren’t open. We were the canaries in the coalmine, if you will.
As with any show, the team you have working with you is so important. I had such a dream team on this project. My Assistant Set Decorator for the first episode was Graham Wichman, who helped shop many crucial elements for the Makara Prince Suite as well as Annie’s office. Charlene Wang de Chen then took over for all of the following episodes and was truly my right hand, helping to oversee much of Annie’s loft, the Sokolov house and Briscoe home, to name a few. Jeanelle Marie Vanden Heuvel was my 2nd Assistant Set Decorator, essential in Cassie’s apartment, Cassie’s childhood home and the massive Makara Prince hallway. Buyer Katie Lobel was my go-to for sourcing custom projects, exquisite smalls and all things airplane. There was some personnel changeover after the Covid break, i.e. Lindsay Stephen took over as my 2nd Assistant Set Decorator, but everyone on the team was so strong, it all worked beautifully.
Craig Horan, my longtime Lead, and his team are second to none—truly some of the best problem solvers I’ve ever worked with, a really efficient and fun team. We had an incredible Set Dec Coordinator who jumped on about mid-way through and was really essential. We had 2 OnSet dressers that also switched after Covid. Covid definitely presented many challenges. But as our job entails change as a constant, we were able to adapt pretty quickly to all the new protocol. And now we’ll see what new challenges are to come!
Makara Prince Hotel Suite...The screens allow different aspects to each room. Inspired by a light fixture in Bangkok, the custom chandelier is actually 3 chandeliers hung at different heights to create a large-scale system of light orbs hanging above the inviting sofas, which at night seem to be their own star system above the twinkling city... Photo by Spencer Lasky. Courtesy of HBO Max.
Makara Prince Hotel Suite...Set Decorator Jessica Petruccelli SDSA reveals, “We tried many different pairs of sconces flanking the bedroom doorway before landing on the circular striated-brass ones from Arteriors.” Note the contemporary use of traditional Thai elements. Photo by Spencer Lasky. Courtesy of HBO Max.
Makara Prince Hotel Suite...A moment caught in time...Alex [Michiel Huisman] and Cassie [Kaley Cuoco]...Photo by Phil Caruso. Courtesy of HBO Max.
Makara Prince Hotel Suite... “The black lacquer desk in the Makara suite is of the same masculine and seductive quality of the Z desk in Alex’s loft apartment. Many curved edges, dark glossy finishes. There is an intentional tie of these two spaces, in that we wanted the suite to feel like Alex’s character since he is bound more with this space initially then his own apartment.”
Photo by Spencer Lasky. Courtesy of HBO Max.
Makara Prince Hotel Suite...A moment of anguish intensified by the framing of the moving screens & the evocative framed photograph by a young emerging Thai artist. Screenshot courtesy of HBO Max.
Alex’s loft apartment...Leather coffee table and chaise. Green leather chairs, classic leather Chesterfield...wood, metals and stone...bear taxidermy...earth elements in this luxurious penthouse loft. Photo Courtesy of HBO Max.
Alex’s loft apartment...Cassie and her friend Max have gained entry into Alex’s domain, trying to find clues to his killer, but end up with more confusion...Kaley Cuoco, Deniz Akdeniz. Photo by Phil Caruso. Courtesy of HBO Max.
Annie’s loft...Cassie seeks refuge at her best friend’s place, more lost than usual...Photo by Phil Caruso. Courtesy of HBO Max.