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The Sets of Scandal

Most people fall in one of three camps - - 1) they have heard of the Scandal but don't watch, 2) they are living under a rock, or 3) they call themselves "Gladiators." After binge-watching three seasons in June, I find myself behind door number three.

Scandal is ABC's highly addictive, scandalous (for lack of a better word) Thursday night drama, filled with oh-no-they-didn't-just-do-that moments about the head of a Washington, DC crisis management firm ("Fixer" Olivia Pope/actress Kerry Washington) and her on-again-off-again relationship with the President along with many other plot twists too numerous to mention. It's filled with compelling story lines, heat of the moment passion, epic family turmoil, top-notch acting, great power dressing and of course, wonderful sets.

I was fortunate enough to spend a morning at the sets of Scandal this past September (where LA's Gower Studios doubles as our nation's capital) that included the impeccably designed Oval Office and Olivia's firm and apartment. Production designer Corey Kaplan and set decorator Barbara Cassel design some 25-35 sets per episode (900 sets in 47 episodes!) where believability is paramount considering FLOTUS herself is a fan.

The epicenter of problem solving at OPA aka the Olivia Pope Agency. Producer Shonda Rhimes wanted a very large conference table for the office whose style ranges from the 20's to the present. District Millworks, a Los Angeles based reclaimed wood furniture maker, designed the table that remains one of the show's most distinctive pieces.

The desk in the Oval Office is a copy of the Resolute Desk in the actual White House with panels that open just like  JFK's. Shown here is Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant III.
The designers dressed the Oval in a classic style that suited First Lady Mellie Grant's personality.  "Most Presidents in the past had the room design to match their style and comfort," says Kaplan. "Fitz is a worrier, hence his office is often a bastion of fret and concern. Light, cheerful and neutral would not be a consideration" for the room's color scheme.

It's the little things that matter: Official documents, complete with the White House seal, keep the settings real.
The backdrop of many a dramatic scene in the Oval Office, painter Michael Blaich created a tri-color combination for the walls to create movement similar to that of Venetian plaster. The blue and white porcelain is from Two's Company.

Olivia's apartment was inspired by the grandeur of the 20's historic landmark apartment building El Royale where comfort, serenity and a bottle of wine are the order of the day.
Another angle of the apartment - strangely we never see her play the piano...and rarely see her entertain in the seldom seen dining room below.

The designers chose to focus on simple colors to create an "edgeless safe cocoon where Olivia can be herself," says  Kaplan. 

For more on the sets of Scandal, you can see my piece in Architectural Digest and be sure to read the inside scoop on the show's designs on the wonderful blog The Sets Revealed. Or catch the actual show on ABC on Thursday nights 8/9 central where you too can be a Gladiator.

Photo Credits courtesy of ABC/Colleen Hayes.

This post first appeared on Cinema Style, please read the originial post: here

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The Sets of Scandal


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