This story about the production design of “Wednesday” first appeared in the Comedy Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Creepy. Kooky. Spooky. Ooky. All of these adjectives are naturally in play when you’re adapting a spinoff series of “The Addams Family” — even more so when Tim Burton is your boss. For “Wednesday” production designer Mark Scruton, that made him as happy as Wednesday Addams witnessing a torture chamber.
“When I got this gig, I very consciously did not watch any of [the past adaptations],” Scruton said. “I did go back to the Charles Addams cartoons very specifically, but we wanted to take it back to that original core look and aesthetic. Tim responds to his heart and he’s a minimalist and likes things very precise and composed, rather than lots of background fluff, so it was a great jumping-off point for us.”
Scruton took advantage of the creative freedom that the Netflix series’ new locations offered, beyond the Addams’ well-known abode. Among them was Wednesday’s attic dormitory room, which is bisected down the middle, right through the windows, to reflect her somber palette and her roommate Enid’s (Emma Myers) rainbow hues. There were also the Nancy Drew-like haunts of the campus, including the town diner, the Weathervane, and the belle of them all, the sprawling Nevermore Academy, which was set up at Cantacuzino Castle in Romania (where most of the series was shot) after a location in Toronto had to be scrapped.
“We looked at lots of castles, but it was surprisingly hard to find one that really worked for us,” Scruton said. “It comes back to Tim’s aesthetic being more pared-back: A lot of them were very ornate and over-the-top and that wasn’t what we were going for. Cantacuzino Castle had the ground floors and the footings and this great central turret, which already had that slight Addams Family lean.”
A close look at the mise-en-scène for “Wednesday” shows some visual nods to Burton’s work: a little “Beetlejuice” in a graveyard scene here, a bit of “Sleepy Hollow” in a chase scene there. For fans of David Lynch, the Weathervane might recall the mysteries discussed by Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern in “Blue Velvet.” (“I love David Lynch almost as much as I love Tim,” Scruton said.) But the most surprising set piece was showcased in the scene that went viral: the Rave’N, where Wednesday dances to the Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck.”
“The school dance, the Rave’N, that whole sequence was originally conceived to be in a huge, grand, elaborate ballroom space that we were going to use in other further sequences as well,” Scruton said. But budget constraints brought down the hammer on that idea. “Then it proved really hard to find the right location, and then even harder to find one that will let you douse it in thousands of liters of blood. And the clock was ticking.”
“We were scouting Bucharest for a location, but nothing was really working, so very late in the day we came up with a way to stage it at the studios in Buftea [a nearby town]. I pulled Tim into my office and we decided to use drapes and fabric and build ourselves a space out of nothing,” he said. “And then everyone bought into it. I didn’t think anybody really missed [the ballroom] in the end.”