Decorating the True Blood Sets

July 4, 2010 by  

Thanks to Mandi Bierly of PopWatch, we learned some very interesting and fun details of how many of the sets on HBO‘s True Blood were decorated.  In addition to shopping on eBay, a lot of the decoration items were donated by crew members.

Production Designer for the show, Suzuki Ingerslev, described some of the details and inspirations for Fangtasia, the homes of Sookie, Jason and Lafayette, Bill’s house, Merlotte’s, Russell Edgington‘s mansion and Lou Pine’s bar.

Starting with Merlotte’s, Suzuki said they wanted to maintain a homey, Southern atmosphere.  The bar top consists of resined, old-fashioned coasters.  We probably haven’t noticed it, but the doorknob to Sam‘s office is the face of a dog.  She said the actors get a kick out of it.  “We even have a picture of Alan Ball and Charlaine Harris behind the bar.”

Knowing that Eric is capitalizing on the draw of vampires, there is a souvenir stand in FangtasiaSuzuki said they hired an artist to paint some of the crew members on velvet, and they hung a picture of the Last Supper that lights up.  She said it adds to the “anti-religious artifacts” that would make sense in a vampire bar.  In Eric‘s office in Season 1, her decorator put hot sauce on his desk as a joke – vampires do not eat.

When decorating Lafayette‘s house, “we started with a leopard carpet and some foiled wallpapers that we found in an in-stock book here in the ofice”.  As a resource, a book titled Bachelor Pads was used.  Lafayette, evidently, believes in a variety of deities and there are religious items around that represent all of them.

Decorating Jason‘s house was pretty simple.  “This is the house he grew up in, and he hasn’t done anything to it — so that’s why it’s that kooky wallpaper.”  Making him the stereotypical bachelor, beer bottles and pizza boxes are staples.  And, have you noticed he has black satin sheets on his bed?

For Bill‘s house, she wanted the look and feel to be very old and neglected.  So the peeling paint on the outside adds to the romance without having it look haunted.  Asked why Bill hasn’t upgraded his “daytime quarters”, rather than continue to sleep under the house, Suzuki explained.

“I guess it goes back to their instincts, and they do like to bury down into the ground, so even if he’s a gentleman, he has that animal instinct to go down and hide.”

Regarding the bowl of water and the sponge by Bill‘s front door, which we saw in last week’s flashback, this was a traditional way to warn visitors that sickness was within.

Talking about Sookie‘s house, Suzuki said they spent a lot of time with it.  “The house was so delicate and beautiful and represented grandma.”  A construction worker’s wife donated her deceased mother’s dishes and crochet covers.  Lois Smith, who played Gran, added her own youthful photos and the show’s creator, Alan Ball, provided photos of his own family.  “Everybody in the crew has donated stuff, so it feels like everybody’s family has something in there.”

Sookie‘s kitchen sink was very difficult to find.  It’s an old “farm-style” sink, and although they searched all over the country, they ended up having to rent it as a prop.

The prop master came up with an idea for the table lights in the werewolf bar, Lou Pine’s.  They’re made from “silver doggie bowls and cheap plastic domes”.

Moving on to the mansion owned by Russell Edgington, vampire King of Mississippi, Suzuki said she and her art director found a treasure in Natchez.

“Longwood, a National Historic Landmark and the largest remaining octagonal home in the U.S., which she [Suzuki] was told had never been filmed before for TV or features.  “The interior was never completed.  After the Civil War, they walked away from it,” she says.  “But we just needed it for the exterior, because there’s nothing like it in the whole world.”

They studied plantation homes to get the flavor for the furnishings and they found a wallpaper for the king’s dining room that depicts Mississippi, complete with Spanish moss and alligators.

Decorating the dining room table was rather interesting.  Suzuki said they realized they couldn’t use silverware because silver is harmful to vampires. They instead used gold flatware.  And regarding the crystal, “Waterford was kind enough to loan us some pieces because apparently, they’re fans of the show.”

The last bit of decorating discussed was Maryann‘s “12-foot statue of steel, meat, live bugs and snakes”.  Because Alan wanted authenticity, $500 in meat and vegetables were purchased every couple of days.  Fortunately it was outdoors because the stink was authentic!  But unfortunately, security guards had to be placed around it to keep wild animals away.  Even bug wranglers were involved in ensuring the snakes and bugs didn’t burrow too far into the sculpture.

As for the constraints Eric used on Yvetta in last week’s sex scene, Suzuki couldn’t believe they had a conversation over whether to use ropes, metal or chain.  She said that building that set was pretty strange.  Actually, she used the word crazy.

“We started with brand new metal, brand new concrete, and then we aged it all down.  And then we do a wet-down [before shooting] so that it seems even more dank and disgusting.  When you’re in that set, you feel like you need to shower afterwards.”

So now, when you watch the episodes for the 3rd and 4th times, you can start paying attention to those quirky decorating items you didn’t notice before.

You can also read’s exclusive two part interview with True Blood’s Production Designer Suzuki Ingerslev by clicking here for part 1 and here for part 2.


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