People always talk about how gorgeous or how detailed everything looks on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and that is because of production designer Bill Groom. With every season, Groom has to tackle large, period designs and they are almost never the same from one season to another. For the most ambitious season yet, Groom got to play with some new territory when we followed Midge and Susie to other cities on the road. The results are as immaculate as you would expect.
Moving to Vegas and Miami might seem like a huge task, but Groom was very confident in telling me how they created these glitzy destinations. The legendary Fountainbleu hotel just happened to be restored to its former glory, and it was easy for Groom and his team to take it back in time. For Vegas, he added a bit more sparkle.
The details of the sets for Maisel are never questions because they look so authentic and are researched to the smallest detail. Groom revealed to me what his favorite set was, and it was definitely not one packed with yellow teddy bears.
Awards Daily: Are you ever going to be able to look at a yellow teddy bear ever again?
Bill Groom: (Laughs) Probably not. That was definitely something.
AD: What were you most excited for in terms of broadening Midge’s world?
BG: As she moves into bigger and bigger venues, it’s more and more real estate to cover for us. That’s the biggest challenge. Figuring out where we were going to see her on the road was a big discussion and it was fun that it was Las Vegas and Miami. It’s really hot there.
AD: Yes, it is.
BG: It was difficult working conditions, but it was fun being there.
AD: I used to live there. The heat was definitely at the top of my list of least favorite things there.
BG: I imagine, yeah.
AD: The Fountainbleu is a big moment for Midge and Susie. What was it like to take that back in time? I didn’t realize that the staircase to nowhere was real.
BG: That was part of the original. That hotel went through a huge restoration maybe 6 or 7 years ago which included building the towers. They restored the original lobby and the original bowtie floor. I think that was quite the undertaking. We were fairly lucky to find it in such a condition. We did a few bits to take it back but it’s in great shape actually.
AD: I love the shot when Midge and Susie arrive and we get to see how big the lobby is. It has so much character.
BG: It was quite the destination in the late ‘50s or early ’60 for the glamorous Hollywood crowd. There are a lot of photographs of Frank Sinatra and Elvis, so that fit for the story we were telling.
AD: What’s it like balancing the panache of Vegas with the tackiness of it?
BG: Vegas in the day was actually quite simple. I exaggerated it a little bit, because if you look at the photo research, those hotel rooms look more like Denny’s restaurant than you’d think. We made it more sparkly than it might have actually been, and we went from there. We chose a catering hall in Queens in New York, and there were some good bones. Crystal chandeliers. We worked both from the research of the period of Vegas and working with the space we had in New York. We were lucky to find a collector of slot machines—I believe he’s from California—so all those slot machines came from one source.
AD: Talk about luck.
BG: (Laughs) Yes.
AD: The Havana-inspired club in Miami is really packed with gorgeous details. Where did you start with that?
BG: That is sort of based on a film called I Am Cuba, and it has a club similar to that. We used that as our inspiration. We set that up as early as we could so we were all on the same page.
AD: Back in New York, we get to see Joel work on The Button Club pretty much all season. I liked that we watch it evolve as we watch the show, and I love that doorway that was originally in it. What was it like to create that space?
BG: Years ago, I scouted an old social hall in Queens. It’s been abandoned for years and years. The first floor is active but nothing else. When I first read the script, that popped into my mind. I based it on a real place in New York. It’s not in Chinatown, so we added more details to make it fit more comfortably. Sometimes people ask me what my favorite space is and I never know what to say, but that is one of my favorite sets of all three seasons. I really enjoyed creating that.
AD: I like watching how you got to change it as the season progressed.
BG: Yeah, and we were fortunate that our set decorating team found a button warehouse that went out of business. They had boxes of buttons and machines to make buttons so all of that was real.
AD: I like how Abe and Rose have to move in with Moishe and Shirley, and their house in Queens is very different than the apartment that they came from.
AD: I like how the kitchen feels claustrophobic and it’s this bright yellow. What’s it like creating a hell for the Weissmans?
BG: When that became a story element, I asked Dan [Palladino] and Amy [Sherman-Palladino] their thoughts and Dan told me it should reflect pride of ownership. In my mind, it had to be a center hall house. The symmetry was important. The fact that it was brick and solid and had a few columns out front. It’s funny now that I’m talking to you I’m realizing how much Queens factors into this season. It’s in Forest Hills in Queens, and it’s a neighborhood where famous people like Jimmy Breslin and Donald Trump lived. I think the family who lived there didn’t mind it.
AD: I mean, who wouldn’t?
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is streaming now on Amazon.