Production Designer Talks 'The Gifted' World Building

Production Designer Talks ‘The Gifted’ World Building

12 min


Recently Seth Reed, production designer on The Gifted, spoke with ComicBook.com about the incredible world building in the show as well as future sets that will be appearing, including the world of the Purifiers, a mutant-hating group.

You can check out the entire conversation below:

ComicBook.com: Were you familiar with the world of the X-Men before you started working on The Gifted, or did you have to do some research to familiarize yourself? Or did you choose not to do too much research?

Seth Reed: It’s a little of both. I love sci-fi and I love comic book sci-fi. Of course, I worked on Supergirl before this. It’s not something I wasn’t interested in or aware of. Of course, I’ve seen all the X-Men movies and especially loved the Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse, so I was even familiar with the idea of who these kids were, but I had not watched Season One until I got a phone call from Derek Hoffman. And then I watched it. I brought fresh eyes from that point of view.

As you mentioned, you worked on Supergirl. Something interesting that Derek Hoffman said when I spoke to him was that he doesn’t think of The Gifted as a comic book show. How has your experience working on the two shows differed?

That’s a great question, and my answer would be that there is a very big difference between them. I would say that Supergirl is much more focused on Supergirl and her powers and sort of a light version of everything that’s happening, whereas The Gifted is really trying to tackle social issues, and it’s about relationships, and it’s about how people live in the world and how they confront adversity, things that come up in Supergirl also, but not to the depth and the level that they do in The Gifted.

Can you talk about your approach to building out the universe of The Gifted this season? Hoffman had mentioned that you were trying to create these three different mutant worlds.

First of all, as we know from the way The Gifted story ended at Season One, you can see that the group was breaking apart and people were deciding how actively they wanted to resist or what they were going to decide to do next. It’s true what Derek said. We are trying to define three very clear worlds.

There’s the world of the Inner Circle, which is they have money, they have resources, and they’re determined to create their own separate homeland or their own separate place. The look is distinctive; it’s clean, it’s crisp, it’s modern, and it has its own colors, sort of series of colors even, and you can even see the way people dress. They have their own way they dress. We really worked hard to create the inner circle specifically.

Whereas the Mutant Underground is our characters that have said that they want to try to co-exist with the rest of humanity, and they’re going to figure out how to live in the normal world, so they’re much more of the regular guys out there trying to survive and to be part of society.

Then the Morlocks, of course, are going to choose to completely disappear and they’re living underground. So, their world is very different looking and has its own architecture and color palettes and everything else.

As you can see from the trailers and episodes, the architecture of the Inner Circle is really specific, modern, and clean, as I sort of said. And their grand hall is this big, beautiful architectural space of light streaming in, and they’re clearly high up in the air.

Whereas Mutant Underground, they’re living on the run, and they’re living in an apartment or in buildings and places that could easily be inhabited by human beings […] They’re mixing with humanity, and their colors are softer and more muted and more normal in the browns and the greens and every other color that sort of makes up our world. They’re mixed in, and they’re more homogeneous.

And then the Morlocks are living underground, so they’re in tunnels and their spaces have no light, except the light coming from them so they’re much more restricted looking.

What was the biggest practical challenge you faced in constructing this season’s sets?

First of all, we didn’t really repurpose any sets from last year. They didn’t retain anything because the headquarters got destroyed. You won’t really see anything that would be left over from last season, remarkably. But the biggest challenge is that they really asked us to create a very, very ambitious world. There’s a lot, a lot of sets; a lot of new sets every episode, and we’ve really created a very rich and varied environment.

They’re going to go a lot of places, and they’re going to do a lot of things, and every single one of those, we try to nail it. We really, really work hard to make something that will look cinematically and visually interesting for our characters to play out their scenes. We’ve done a lot of building. Every episode, you’re gonna see new sets and a lot of buildings.

One set we didn’t get to see was the headquarters of the Purifiers, but Hoffman told us a bit about how almost insidious getting into that headspace was. Can you tell us a bit about how designing their world was different from designing the worlds of the mutants?

The Purifiers are basically in their own way living in an alternative sort of existence in that they sort of got quarantined away from everybody. It sort of looks like they’re off the grid. What they do, where they are is sort of out in the forest kind of idea. They’re away from everybody. Their compound looks very organic. And that’s overtones, of course. I don’t want to get into it too much, but they clearly have withdrawn from society. That’s what I can tell you.

Out of all of these sets, do you have a personal favorite?

I have to say I’ve really been honored on this show to be asked to do a lot. A lot, a lot of buildings, a lot of great sets to do, and you’re going to see scenes where the Inner Circle destroys the bank and scenes where people go down amazing hallways that are just incredible and of course, many versions of the Inner Circle in their gorgeous blue shiny citadel. I got to say I love all of these. Every time, I fall in love with the new set every episode that we build, I have to say, which has been really amazing actually. I can’t actually pick any one. I can only say that there are so many great sets on this show; I’m really proud of them.

Even though The Gifted isn’t a typical comic book television series, there is the expectation that it will include Easter eggs. As the production designer, I assume a lot of the handling of that falls to you. How do you handle that? Is it something you spend a lot of time thinking about?

I do, because I’m aware of Polaris’ heritage, or I’ve seen, let’s say, the versions of Blink and Thunderbird in Days of Future Past. I think that Blink is actually based on Future Past. And as I’m aware of the heritage of these descendants of the X-Men, and I also, of course, know all about Season One, but I don’t consciously want to plant anything. Once in a while, Derek will ask for something, and we’ll do it. But I think if there’s anywhere to look, I would be looking for Polaris, if I were you, to try to see some things.

While I was visiting the set I was told about some of the small details put into them, like rounding the edges of the metal furniture in Polaris’ quarters when the baby is born and the members of the Mutant Underground having little sculptures from Eclipse in their rooms.

How many of those kinds of little details do you put in that you hope people notice but also don’t necessarily draw attention to themselves, and are there any in particular that you hope people will see this season?

That’s interesting. Polaris, of course, was just a specific case because she has the baby and we were very conscious of her room. And we’re conscious about the shape of her room, what she sees out the window, and we’re certainly really, very, very conscious also of the grand hall, which is a place that changes all the time. If you watch the grand hall through all the different episodes, you will see that it morphs into different kind of uses and spaces as you look at it. You just have to watch it to see. So, in one sense, it’s not really an Easter egg, but it’s definitely a decision to not let things ever stay the same, but go ahead and let them evolve and change as we progress through the show.

There was a lot of effort put into sets for different characters’ living quarters this season, and having seen them they really do say a lot about the characters that inhabit them. Were there any characters that you found particularly interesting or challenging to work on?

That’s a great question. I think with every one of the characters we’re searching for their individual characteristics that we want to express in some way through the set or, in some way, provide background or support for what’s playing out in the theme. You’ll see that really in every one of the characters, things that happen with Reed, that we created very specifically for Reed; or you’ll see them for Lauren […] there are details everywhere.

Or for Eclipse, there’s details everywhere. When Eclipse is sitting at his table in his room, there’s a map behind him; he’s searching for Polaris and he’s trying to figure out where she is. Nobody said we had to have that, but you’ll see these kinds of details or things that he’s making on his table using his powers and working in metal.

And the same thing goes with Lauren. You’ll see some of the details of some of her dreams with Andy, all sorts of things. Anyway that we can that we can help, we’re gonna do it. There’ll be a lot of detail all around.

One of my personal favorite sets that I saw was the Frost Sisters’ bedroom. As someone who knows those character through the comics too, it really felt like you brought out something from their Stepford Cuckoos, three-in-one hivemind in the way that room is designed. Can you talk about designing that room and how you looked at them either as a hive mind or as individuals or somehow both?

I would have to tell you that I think of them as a hive mind, and I listen to them talking all the time between each other, sort of, telepathically. So there’s these conversations going on and no one can hear that the three of them are talking. Where they actually express themselves individually but they really are a hive mind. So when I set up that room for them, I think I was looking in for the elegance and the sort of wonderful charm of those three together, framed in blue. The lines in that room are clean, they’re obviously connected to the Inner Circle.

And you probably didn’t see it — one whole wall lights up blue — because the sets were probably turned off when you were there. And the ceiling glows white, completely white. And at the end, designed to cast shadow down that reflect the grid of the ceiling on the floor. And all of them, in basically groups of three, everything that you see everywhere, in groups of three. I think it’ll all come out when you see the Frosts’ bedroom in episode six for the first time. You’ll see a little bit more ’cause you get their background instead and we’ll go in their bedroom.

So, the answer to you is I really think of them, even though they are individuals and we hear their conversations, I think of them as three of the same and was working really hard on the idea that three is one.

Any last comments you’d like to leave fans with before I let you go?

I would say to you that this season is going to be visual, it’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be cinematic. I think they’re going to be on the move and we’re going to see them come up against a lot more issues and confrontations with their own vulnerabilities and their own place in society. And I think their world is going to be greatly expanded from where it was before. I think that the audience is going to love it.

It’s so exciting. There’s so much happening for all of these characters. Everyone will want to pick one out and sort of love them and identify with them, but they’re absolutely thrilling. Also, the new characters are absolutely thrilling. I think it seems to be a great season. I don’t even know right now how it’s going to end.”

Also read: Mike Colter Talks ‘Luke Cage’ Cancellation

Created by Matt Nix, The Gifted stars Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, Sean Teale, Natalie Alyn Lind, Percy Hynes White, Coby Bell, Jamie Chung, Blair Redford, Emma Dumont, Skyler Samuels, and Grace Byers.

Two ordinary parents take their family on the run from the government when they discover that their children have mutant abilities, and join an underground community of mutants who have to fight to survive. At the end of the first season several members of the underground leave to join the Inner Circle, and the second season sees conflict between these groups as well as others with their own extreme ideologies.

The Gifted airs Tuesdays at 8 pm ET on FOX.


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Reilly Johnson
Reilly Johnson is a businessman, journalist, and a staple in the online entertainment community contributing to some of the largest entertainment pages in the world. He formerly contributed to Heroic Hollywood. Currently, Reilly is running the news and media website, FandomWire, a subsidiary of Johnson Concepts.