Veep was another show I didn’t dive into until the very last season. This past Spring I binge-watched all 7 seasons of Veep within a week and regretted not watching the show sooner. I had seen some of the sets over the years, so I had a feeling I would love Veep‘s production design and set decoration, but I also forgot how much I love Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She is a treasure even when she’s being absolutely awful as Selina Meyer- which she does a lot.
“I feel the character is really in the set dressing.”
Veep is an American political satire that aired on HBO from 2012 to 2019. Veep stars Selina Meyer played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a fictional Vice President with a deceivingly cruel attitude under the comic tone. The series follows Meyer and her political team as they scheme and attempt to make their mark, leaving a legacy without becoming mired in the day-to-day political games that define American politics.
After mainlining Veep, I was so happy I had the unique opportunity to chat with Veep set decorator Kimberly Wannop and set decorator David Smith who took on the immense challenge of taking over the set decoration of the series finale after Kim went into labour early. She worked right until the day she gave birth and even came back to work the moment she was physically able to handle it in between taking care of newborn twins. That is some next-level dedication to the art and craft of set decoration and the show. I don’t know many who would have done the same. Read what it took to get through set decorating Veep Season 7 below.
NOTE: Spoilers AheadVeep Set Decorator Kimberly Wannop and Set Decorator David Smith Examine Their Work on the Beloved HBO Comedy Click To Tweet
Q&A with Veep Set Decorator Kimberly Wannop and Set Decorator David Smith
Rose: How did you begin in set decoration? Were you always interested in film and television?
Kimberly Wannop: I was a total film dork and was that person in school who knew the film you were talking about with only one clue. I went to school for interior design and started in architecture, but it wasn’t really for me. I thought, well, I’m going to try and work in Hollywood, and after graduating for interior design I went to Hollywood with $3000. I was like, well, alright, that’s all I have until I get a job and then I have to go home.
I ended up working my way up from a set PA, and into the art department, which I thought I would have a path into production design. Then when I got to be an art director, I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do.
The character I feel is really in the set dressing, so I switched paths and started over. I worked my way up from art department coordinator, to set dec buyer, and then as a set decorator but it really always just felt like, wow, that would be the greatest job. It’s two of the things I love. I thought I’ll probably never get to do it and then just worked really hard to get there.
David Smith: And so you have!
I started out wanting to be an actor because I had been in a play in grammar school and then I worked in community theatre in South Carolina, where I’m from, and I really liked the theatre. I did odd jobs around the theatre, but, you know- I was on the crew, but I really wanted to be an actor.
Out of high school, I got an apprenticeship at the Cleveland Playhouse, and I went there and did an apprenticeship as an actor for one year and worked in the scene shop and made scenery. The next year I came back, but the following year not as an actor. They told me I wasn’t a very good actor, but I was a nice enough person, and they wanted me around. I worked in the prop shop the second year, and I became the property master at the end of that season. I stayed there for 14 years and did 170 plays in 3 theatres over the 14 years.
There was an actor who had been in a series for CBS called Beacon Hill which was CBS’ answer to Upstairs Downstairs, and when I saw Beacon Hill one Sunday night, I realized there existed the position of a set decorator. I went to the library to see what a set decorator did, and I said, gee, this is what I do in the theatre.
So that summer at the end of the season I wrote to various places and I wrote to CBS, NBC, and ABC in New York asking about set decorators and CBS replied to me saying my resume seemed qualified to be a set decorator and if you’re ever in New York, look us up. So the next summer at the end of the season I went to New York, and I looked them up, and they said they would definitely hire me as a set decorator if I were there.
I had had a great time in theatre, and I loved being a prop master, and I was sometimes a set designer and sometimes a costume designer, and I had worked as a stage manager as well. I wasn’t very aware of film and television except for that I liked really good shows, and I noticed really good period things, you know, and appreciated them for what they were, but I was mostly a theatre person.
I got a job in 1980. I worked there briefly at the Goodman Theatre after Cleveland, and then after the Goodman, I got a job at the Metropolitan Opera to work in the costume department. That took me to New York, where I made $250 per week in 1980, which was more than I ever made in theatre.
Kim: You were rolling in it.
David: But certainly not enough to live in New York on my own and through kind friends, I shared apartments, and I worked at the Met for 6 weeks. Unfortunately for me in one way, the Met went out on strike. There was a musician’s strike, and I went to CBS, and they said, just keep in touch, and we’ll put you to work as soon as we can. So in 1980, I began working there and worked there for 10 years and then came out to LA.
I got fired from 2 soap operas by the same producer and- it was a very political time, and I came out to LA. I did my first movie in New York in 1984 and that year that I did my first movie I did 6 months of soap opera, and I did 2 Broadway shows, and 2 Off-Broadway shows. It was a great year, and I had a great time, but in the late ’80s, the teamsters were making demands and producers were boycotting New York.
I came out to LA and worked very briefly on The Young and the Restless at CBS and went back to New York and then came back to LA to do Blossom and Herman’s Head as a non-union job. Then I got into the IATSE local, and my first union job was the last season of LA Law, and then after LA Law, I did a couple of shows. I ended up on NYPD Blue for 4 and a half years. Then I started doing movies mostly in 2000.
Rose: I find in most people’s entertainment careers, there ends up being this one show that suddenly changes everything, and it becomes easier afterwards. What was your big break show?
Kim: I would have to say taking over in film as a decorator, that was a big break, but I’d also have to say Veep. Joining Veep in Season 5, that was big for me personally because it was my favourite show and you don’t always get to work on something that you like. I think each show I did was a break and I can definitely see a turn in my career for each of those jobs.
David: It’s interesting because NYPD Blue was originally designed by a production designer by the name of Paul Eads and I remember watching a show he did called Civil Wars before he did NYPD Blue, which was also a Steven Bochco show. I saw that they were in a New York apartment and they had a New York bathroom and I thought, wow, this can not be a set, this has to be a location. Then later I found out that of course it was a set and it was done in LA and Paul had done it, along with his team obviously, none of us work alone, and it was just like really terrific so I pursued him.
When NYPD Blue first started he had originally thought that it was going to be so busy that he would need a second art director and a second set decorator which turned out not to be true, or at least they were busy enough, but they had to do it with just the one set decorator and one art director.
Anyway, the season that I did LA Law here in Los Angeles, I think for me that was my big break, and that was the last season. Then the next season of NYPD Blue, midway through the season, Paul was getting to production design Murder One, and Mary Ann Biddle, the original set decorator of NYPD Blue, was going to do that with him.
I got hired along with production designer Richard Hankins to finish off the second season of NYPD Blue. Then we did the next season, and Richard stayed on until the very end. I stayed on for somewhere over 4 and a half seasons, and I did 91 episodes. For me, that was a really big challenge and a real education. My confidence really grew by just churning out all of this work and the scripts were very late in coming together so we couldn’t commit to the locations.
We did a lot of work on the backlot, on the stages and the turnaround was really amazing. We had an unbelievable construction and paint crew, and the plasterer and the swing gang did a fantastic job. We really did a ton of work, and it was just really wonderfully gratifying. I know it’s lumped together, but I think LA Law and then eventually NYPD Blue was the pivotal point in my career where things started on the incline.
Kim: It’s so funny, I stalked Paul Eads too. I didn’t know you did too. [They both laugh]
David: And Rose, if you don’t know him, he’s an amazing production designer.
Kim: The realism that he puts into his sets is incredible.
Rose: I’ll definitely look him up as his work isn’t immediately coming to mind. My interest is certainly piqued.
David: He certainly is quite the visionary, and I don’t use those words loosely with production designers because there are lots of really good people, but I think we work with a view visionaries now and then and I think Paul has this enormous talent for that.
Rose: How did you get involved on Veep?
Kim: I got involved when the show moved from Baltimore to Los Angeles for their fifth season. They moved because of the California tax credit which I’m a huge fan of so I joined at that time.
Funny enough, I was done on Parks and Recreation, and I had started a show on Netflix called Love which was only 10 episodes so I didn’t have a job and I thought, what am I going to work on? I wish I could work on my favourite show and I literally said it out loud and wondered what my other production designer friend was doing. So I reached out to her, and she said, your ears must be ringing, I just recommended you for Veep, and I was like, are you kidding me?
Then I got the production designer Jim Gloster‘s email, and I emailed him, and he didn’t email me back. He was busy, but then I tried again, and he responded and interviewed me over the phone since he was in North Carolina. So it all worked out. I’m eternally grateful that I had a conversation and five minutes later found out that someone had just recommended me for the show that just came out of my mouth.
So that’s how I came to it. Also along the way, after I had emailed Jim, I found out that the producer that I had worked with on Parks and Rec was also going to be attached to Veep, so it didn’t hurt me I don’t think. I think it helped me a lot, but ultimately it’s the production designer who made the decision, so I am grateful to Jim for hiring me.
Rose: Did you go through a further interview process or was it enough with the references and phone call?
Kim: It was him looking at my website and interviewing with him. I don’t remember who he called, but he probably called Ian Phillips who I had worked with on Parks and Recreation, and the friend of his who had recommended me, Denise Pizzini, and so I think it might have been enough. I mean, I’m charming as you can tell. It helps. He didn’t know I’m crazy right off the bat.
Rose: David was telling me earlier that you two met at the SDSA (Set Decorators Society of America), yes?
Kim: Yes, we met years ago at the SDSA. One of the great things about that organization is the camaraderie that you have with other set decorators, and meeting people because it’s not like we work together.
Usually, there is only one set decorator, so you know, you see people, and then you don’t see them for months. It’s always a great thing, especially as a young decorator starting out, it was tremendously helpful for me to be a part of that organization, and to be able to meet new people. They don’t know me, and I don’t know them, so that helped a lot, and throughout the years, David and I have remained friends, and so I guess I’ll tell you a little bit about how David came onto Veep.
I was pregnant last season and knew that the end was coming. I was pregnant with twins and thought they might come early so I discussed with the production designer that we should bring on a second decorator for the final episode because my due date was the last day of shooting.
Immediately David came to mind because of what a great decorator he is, and I knew that he had worked on huge shows and had done tons of films and felt he would be able to handle it. It’s not an easy show to handle, and when David describes scripts coming in late, Veep is the type of show where you might not have a script to decorate from. You might just have the outline, or you might just have a conversation. Then you go with it, but I knew he could do it.
Unfortunately, my twins decided to come a little bit earlier than expected, so his first day was basically my last day. I delivered the night before he started. I delivered Tuesday night, and he started Wednesday, so our overlapping was basically over the phone. I came in to finish a couple of sets that I had started, but basically, David jumped into the deep end on this and ran with it.
Rose: And how was that for you, David?
David: It was a big shock. It was one of those things where, you know, I have to do this no matter what- I have to find a way to make this work. I have to say, the first couple of days it seemed like it wasn’t going to be too terribly busy, and then the reality started to sink in about what we were actually trying to do. The scope of the show just kept getting more and more fleshed out.
Fortunately, Kim had a really good crew on the show. The leadman and swing gang were all terrific and gave me all sorts of support and guidance. I would always acquiesce to them about, you know- Do you think this should go here? Is this in keeping with the show? I didn’t want to bring anything in that was really wrong, and I had seen the show, and so I had some idea. Of course, Jim was phenomenal about answering all of my questions no matter how petty they seemed and Andrew, the art director, was terrific and the two buyers were really incredible, but it was either sink or swim.
It’s always amazing- I think we can accomplish so much when we’re on a show. Things just get done, you find a way. There’s serendipity, and it all comes together, and somehow it’s rather surprising when it does all come together, and you wonder how it’s even physically possible.
Like for the library, David Mandel wanted a specific look to the mannequins, so we auditioned mannequins but to lay our hands on 36 fresh new mannequins that all had the same pose within a 4-day window was difficult. At one point we were going to do them headless and handless, and so we auditioned all of those. We didn’t find 36 exactly, we found maybe 29 and then 8 more. There were definitely 2 kinds, but they were not severely different enough that it made any difference.
In the end, they were not featured at all. At one point there was a scene in front of them, and that got cut and became a walk-and-talk somewhere else. You know, experience helps and having a good support team, and Kim was readily available to answer questions as well, in between taking care of the twins and going to the hospital and all that.
Kim: I felt very comfortable, even if David couldn’t have done it. Well, that’s not true because I don’t know who else could have jumped in there, but my crew is so good. My leadman, Patrik Alven, is just- he’s phenomenal, and that relieved me to know that even though I didn’t have physical days overlapping with David now, I knew that my team could pick up any slack and help David to make it great.
David: And I think also there was a certain responsibility on everyone’s behalf because there’s a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in this particular episode and everyone knew it was going to be the finale. From my outsider view of everything, everyone seemed extremely happy to be on this show. It was a really nice family, and everyone felt a part of it. They were all more than willing to help make it right.
Kim: I think that with every series finale you start to get nostalgic and you’re in TV and film for a reason. You’re so attached to these characters and really attached to these sets, so it means something to you. You want it to be good. You want to make it the best you can because you have pride in your work.
Rose: So was there a script for David coming in or just an outline?
Kim: There wasn’t. I don’t think there was a full script.
David: I don’t think there was a full script until I was there for a couple of days.
Kim: So, David started on the first day of the episode. David had 4-5 days prep, and it was a 9-day shoot per episode. Luckily, the set builds that we had- they knew they were going to use the Oval Office. They knew they were going to use Jonah’s new office which was Selina’s old office, the EEOB Vice President’s office, and they knew that they were going to use the Brownstone set in some sort of way. They didn’t know how or what would be seen.
So I started the Oval, and I started the EEOB, and I had every intention to do the Brownstone also, but then I believe it got pulled up in the schedule to the second or third day and I just physically wasn’t able to do it.
I came to finish my other sets but that one David had to take over quickly, and it was something interesting. It’s in the future; it’s still their place, but now it’s more them, and I think he did an excellent job integrating the future design and implementing Art Nouveau which I thought was great. I think it turned out beautifully as a future set.
I only had a jump on the things they were building because they were building them. Any location work, which was a ton of work- the whole convention and the hotel suite build, we didn’t know what version it was going to be. So David had also took that over because they didn’t know what it was going to be the day I left. That’s what he inherited that day.
David: And the hotel suite, I think that moved pretty far down. I don’t know; it’s now all a blur.
Kim: Yeah, I think it got pushed.
David: It turned out that the physical space for a number of hotel rooms for the season and the finale episode got completely changed around again. I walked in at one point and was kind of shocked because there were roughly 6, 9’x9’ windows that needed custom drapery and then a 6’x9’ window as well. There was also a wraparound terrace and a bedroom and a hallway, and off the living room, there was a dining area and a nice kitchen.
So it was quite lavish, and you know, within a week, we shopped fabric, had the custom draperies made of both sheers and legs and custom bedding, custom pillows, and rented a lot of furniture. We did this whole wraparound terrace too which you barely see, and then there are all these convention booths for the convention. There were all these campaign booths lining the hallways, and again, you only see a small part of that, but at some point, there were walk-and-talks scheduled for that area.
Kim: You also built the skybox which initially was supposed to be on location, I think, and then it wound up being a build, so that also became a set that they did.
David: Right, and then the skybox gets changed over and became 3 different skyboxes, but you only see 2 of them in the episode. Also for me, what was really interesting was not only were we doing the last episode, but we also went back and redid like 4 or 5 insert scenes from various episodes, so thank goodness the crew knew what we were doing for those. There were a couple that required some re-shopping and re-acquiring, but it was a busy 3 weeks for sure.
Rose: So, David, did you take over the wrap out as well? Given that the entire show had to be wrapped, did you help with this? Or Kim, did you come back to organize this with your crew?
David: I didn’t because there was nothing that I could seriously do. We finished just before Christmas.
Kim: Yes, I came back. We finished shooting around December 19th or 20th, and then after the holidays, my crew came back, and I was in there. I mean it was- it was like the Indiana Jones scene at the end where they hide the ark of the covenant in that big warehouse. We had a football field full of furniture in a warehouse outside of LA, and it was a huge undergoing for my crew to sort everything into groups, instead of sets, how we usually leave them. We put them into groups of here’s all the side tables, here are all the sofas, here’s all the rugs, here’s everything.
The first half of the room was for a hotel. HBO partnered with a hotel in Washington, D.C. that has a Veep suite for the next 2 years and gave them original set dressing, so I was a part of that. I helped curate those pieces to be put into the hotel.
Then HBO goes through it, and we offer up to prop houses to come and purchase. Auction houses came in for specific items that they bought, and I know that they’ve already had online auctions selling pieces.
A lot of the set walls were recycled and given to other shows and student films, so I don’t think it all went to waste. It didn’t just go in the trash somewhere. I’m sure someone appreciates that vase I bought in season 5.
David: And some went to prop houses too, right, Kim? The House of Representatives and those things didn’t those get purchased by a vendor.
David: Rose, Warner Bros has a whole collection of furniture called the White House collection, and I know that a few pieces may have gone there or at least I know they were trying to make a deal for that to happen.
Also, when I helped my friend and set decorator, Jan Pascale, on the film Vice, we used furniture from Kim and Veep for various White House things and government buildings. Jan had also done the original Veep pilot as well.
Kim: Yes, the show was shut down for a year because of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ cancer recovery. The set dressing was just sitting there so luckily they needed it, and we lent them out to another show to use.
Rose: That’s great because at least they get some more use.
David: That’s what’s good about knowing each other.
Kim: Yeah, it’s always like, do you have that stuff on hold because I really need it.
Rose: What was it like working with Jim? What was your process like with the production designer on Veep?
Kim: He is a gent. He is a southern gentleman who is just one of the nicest people. He never gets upset or riled up. He’s very cool and calm, and Veep isn’t that kind of show because its run, run, run, hurry up and wait, run, run, run. He’s used to that though because he’s been on the show since the beginning as the art director. He took over in season 2 as the production designer.
He and I have a process of a lot of research. He just dives into the research. He gives me research, I give him research, and we pick and choose what we might want to go with, but he does the majority of– this is the look, this is what we’re going for, and then I try to do some more just to put my own spin on it.
He really drives that train of reality on this show. We want to see wires, we want to see stuff on the wall, and we want it to be as realistic looking as possible. It came a lot from the earlier seasons of Veep when it was a little more spycam-ish, but not lit so pretty, and you kind of felt like you were somewhat in the room instead of sitting at home watching it.
He’s also really into knowing the history of the characters and what they would really do. We talked a lot about well, Richard would have that on his desk, or he wouldn’t, and he’s just all in. He’s very in tune with the producers and the showrunner David Mandel, so he’s also very generous allowing other departments to be creative, which I think is very important.
His graphics team was amazing and run by Graham Ratliff, and then our props department was run by prop master Gay Perello who did a phenomenal job. I mean, we’re all working together so quickly that he got everybody dialed into the same tune which is pretty amazing. I love working with him. I hope I get to work with him again. He’s east coast pretty much, so I don’t know if I will, but I hope so.
David: I would say that I echo everything that Kim said except that I brought very little to the table as far as major decisions or history, because again, it was moving so quickly and it was clear he had a handle on what needed to be done and had a history, so I just took advantage of that comfort zone. Every now and then I certainly brought up a few choices saying, you know, shall we anchor it this way? Do you want to go with this colour scheme or do you want to go with that colour scheme as far as the hotel suite went?
I probably used him a little bit more than I usually would, although I shouldn’t say that because every show is different, and your relationship with everybody is different. There are some designers that I’ve worked with for a long time, and we know each other well, and we have such a shorthand that we don’t need much beyond finding the way to go. I just relied on Jim’s knowledge of the show and his closeness with the writers and producers to guide me, and fortunately, it turned out well.
Rose: Kim, you mentioned the graphics, and I just want to say how much I loved the graphics in the show. I often find myself unimpressed with political campaign graphics in film and television, but I always felt Veep did a spectacular job with those.
How much research did you guys do to get all of the political campaigns and government buildings correct? Did you guys go to the White House?
Kim: Unfortunately, I’ve never been to the White House. Jim was in D.C. 2 years ago, I think, in the Congressional Offices which helped a lot in that season because Jonah was going through that in his career. I think the year before, the writers went to the White House and took a ton of pictures for us also. So we based a lot of that on the real thing. I remember the pictures that had come back from the writers. Jim had asked for so many details. He asked for pictures of the doors, of the signage in the hallway of their nameplates, like, every detail, and then wides of each room. Then when he went, and he did the same for their offices.
For me, I rewatched the series, and I know that there are a couple of really good documentaries. There’s a documentary about Obama on his path to the White House and another one that I can’t remember. We watched documentaries, and certainly, we used Getty images a ton.
There was also a couple of White House consultants or political insiders that the show used. There’s one woman, I think her name is Tammy Haddad, and I don’t know if she’s a political consultant or not, but she helped Jim a lot in getting pictures and references for things. She’d also be available if we needed to ask anything. We also had Frank Rich on the set, which was really amazing because just to say the word politics to him is incredible, but I would say documentaries and a lot of online research.
Also, if you go to Iowa for example, or look at someone who’s running a campaign in a small town, you start looking into what they are doing and what their signage is among other things. I peeped with my set dec coordinators through the 3 seasons I was there. Basically, all of the hand-made signage I always had made in-house, just like it would be in Iowa. I mean, it got really ridiculous this past season because we really were in a different city every episode, but I always think the hand-made signs add another layer, so we love to do that.
Our graphic designer for the last two seasons was Graham Ratliff, and he’s a gem. He’s so easy to work with. He’s so quick, and I also worked with him on The Good Place. He’s a guy who loves to put in an easter egg here or there, and he’s full of knowledge. He’s all, let’s put this in here, let’s reference back to Parks and Rec, and he’s so good at it and so quick. He does all my paperwork that’s in offices, all the headers that you need and all the business cards that I put on people’s desks. He’s got it down. I’m really grateful for his work.
David: I just want to echo the fact that I was really impressed by everyone’s work as far as the convention and the campaign booths that I did because I just thought it was feature grade. I stood back a couple of times, and I thought, wow, I am really spending a lot of money for this half-hour episode, but then I looked around me and saw the work that was being generated for the episode.
I thought, you know, no one is saying no, or we can’t afford this- not that they opened the coffers or anything. I’m sure there was some discussion, but they fully committed to doing this. The dropping in of the actual Charlotte convention footage with what we shot at USC and downtown LA was pretty good. I thought it was really very good for such quick work and I was surprised at the commitment and the amount of work that was generated, and how well it was done.
Kim: I have to say our construction crew is phenomenal. Throughout the season whether they had to build the South Hall in a week or the Green Room in 4 days, the detail they were able to get in 12’ to 14’ tall walls was incredible. The amount of craftsmanship they were able to put into everything was great.
I do think of it as a commitment from the producers and HBO to put the money on the screen, and I’m very lucky that we were able to do that. As you say, not that we could spend anything we want, but as you put it, it generated a lot of value on the screen, and they appreciated that, and they let us do that. I’m always grateful for that because they didn’t cheapen out, I don’t think once. On this show, I don’t feel like they ever cheapened out on the sets.
Rose: As an outsider just watching the show, I’m always looking at various sets with an eye for the details, and I loved how fully dressed and layered everything was on Veep. Nothing ever felt inauthentic.
Kim: We’re a big fan of, hey there’s nothing on that wall because realistically there’s not a picture on every wall. DOP’s who move paintings to camera are my enemy. I’d rather keep the realism of it. Some things are not perfect, some things are crooked, and that makes it. At least when I watched the first two seasons of Veep– I often wondered, is this a set? As David was saying, when you have to ask yourself as someone who is in the industry if that’s a set or not, that’s a good thing.
David: Yes, I agree; that’s a good compliment.
I also just wanted to point out that Kim had alerted me that there would be lots of things that you would do that would not make it in the show. When I first got the script, and I read it, I thought, gosh, this seems like an hour show because there are so many script pages.
Kim: 52 pages.
David: Yeah, and so you just don’t know what’s going to make it so you do everything because there just isn’t anything you can slack off with and I think that’s even more so now than it used to be because some of these shows, the newer shows, don’t get put together until the end and it’s like a movie. They have so much footage that they can make it anything that they want. Anyway we did a lot of work, and they indeed took advantage for the comedy and the timing, you know, lots of things all depend on how it plays for the laugh, and it’s pretty amazing.
Kim: I’ve shed a lot of tears over sets that never even made it. A perfect example is I spent a week, and I can’t even tell you how much money I spent on the EEOB for Jonah, and it didn’t even make the episode, and it was gorgeous.
Rose: Sorry, what was the EEOB?
Kim: So Selina’s office when she was the Vice President in the first couple seasons– when the show travelled to Los Angeles they said, we’re never going to see it again, throw it away. They shipped it here and then threw it away so when it recurred in this last episode they had to rebuild this whole gigantic set of her office and then maybe part of the bullpen that they had.
Then I went in and redid custom drapery and got all of this new stuff for Jonah because it wasn’t Selina’s office anymore and that was one of the things I came in for after giving birth. I mean, I split a stitch coming in that day and walking around, doing the set, and it didn’t make the cut.
That’s fine, you just think, oh, maybe I got good pictures, and then I realized I didn’t even get good pictures of the set. I can’t even prove it. So it’s a real lesson learned on this show. You decorate and do the best you can for that moment, for them to do the scene when they’re acting in it because it’s not going to make it sometimes and that’s a bummer.
Rose: For the last episode, you said you had 9 days, correct? Was that the norm for the show? Did you always have 9 shooting days?
Kim: We went to 9 days only in this season mostly because it was 7, we had 7 before. I think we started out season 5– we did like 1 episode with 5 days, and it was a joke because everyone was dying and then they went to 6-day episodes. Then this season they started with 7 because they wanted to take it down a little bit for the demand of Julia, who is basically in every scene almost. Really I think that they maybe knew that they were going to write and shoot more than they needed, but they needed to craft this last season. That’s my opinion.
Then after 2 episodes we left and shut down and took a little bit of a longer writer’s break and they decided not to pursue this B story that we shot for 2 episodes, they’re going to rewrite everything. That’s why David, as he referenced earlier, was reshooting some scenes because they had to redo the B story, which is basically Jonah’s story throughout the season.
They had to reshoot and rewrite a lot of that arc, so after that break, after 2 episodes, we then went to 9 days for a half-hour of comedy, and as David will tell you, they still did 12 hour days. I mean it was a full 9 days of shooting. I think the last episode has 24 sets, but I think my average over this season was- I think I counted it up and it was 142 sets for 7 half-hour episodes. I’m not saying they all aired, but I’m saying I dressed 142 sets. [They laugh]
Rose: How much prep time did you get up top?
Kim: The first one, my crew got 3 or 4 weeks before I even came on because they just had to unload- they had 23 containers full of dressing and had to organize it, so they came on way early to set up the show before I did so season 5 I might have had 5 weeks prep, and then I’m guessing, I probably had 4 weeks prep for this season.
David: I think that’s pretty much true. I’m working on prep now with another set decorator, and it’s a 4-week prep for a returning show, and I think that’s rather generous as there are some that only have 3.
Kim: It’s really been cut down over the years. I will also say that luckily I was working with the same producers as The Good Place, so we all had the same amount of prep, you know, the same prop master, different production designer, but same crew there and a lot of the department heads were the same there.
There are conversations going on constantly on The Good Place about Veep, and on Veep about The Good Place. You’re kind of always working on both shows, but now they’re both done, so I don’t know what we’re going to do.
Rose: Oh, The Good Place is done? I didn’t know that. So do you know what you’re onto next?
Kim: I don’t. I’m sitting on a beach in Hawaii at the moment, so I’m about to get into a Mai Tai I think after this. My babies– basically the time change has not been kind, but I don’t know, I have a couple of things on the burner.
I really love that TV seasons are shortened a little because getting the opportunity to do The Good Place and Veep, two completely different shows in one year is kind of amazing to me. For a long time, and I know David was the same, you did 22-24 one-hour episodes, and that was your year, and that was great too. You knew you had time off and then you’d come back into it, but now the thought of doing 22 episodes is daunting. I’ll take it, but I don’t know, it’s exciting and scary.
David: And Kim, I just want to say, when I did the 4 seasons of NYPD Blue, at the end of every 22 episodes for those 4 years, I went away, and I did either a feature or a television movie of the week which was really good, but right now you’re lucky to get 2 or 3 10-episode shows or one 13-episode show, and one 9-episode show a season for people doing mostly television. With TV, there’s such good work going on in the streaming world that it’s really amazing. The scripts are pretty terrific.
Kim: I would say that I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to do that. I like it, and I have been happy to do it.
David: And it’s always nice to work with people you know. The shorthand is there, and you don’t have to spend a third of the time getting up to speed and learning how to dance together as I always say.
Rose: David, what are you up to? What’s next for you?
David: Right now I’m substituting for set decorator Amber Haley who is in Boston finishing up a feature, and I’m going to do 5 weeks on Insecure, and I’m prepping it for her. Right now we’re putting up 3 permanent sets on stage, all that played last season. They’re building a new set on stage in order to not go back to a location this season which is good. Then I will wrap with her on the first episode, and then I have a couple of irons in the fire, I may go and help do a middle block of a 10 story show. There are a couple of people who may want me to help with that.
I’m hoping before my career is done, because I’ve been around a long time, that I get one more really good feature film, but right now most of the scripts I’ve read are mostly television as opposed to features, but I’d love to do one more feature film before it’s all over for me, so we’ll see what happens.
Veep Season 7 Trailer
Have you seen Veep? Did you love Veep‘s set decoration? What did you think of the sets this season? I’d love to know what you think in the comments below.