'It looks like the place was shot with a garland cannon,' production designer Cory Lorenzen tells EW
Ain’t no Hanukkah celebration like a Goldberg family Hanukkah celebration!
On Wednesday’s episode of the ABC sitcom, ominously entitled “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) goes all out to give the family a holiday to remember (and prove she throws the best party). But, she’s not really the one responsible for the lavish decorations that adorn the Goldberg house — that honor goes to Cory Lorenzen, the show’s production designer.
Ahead of the Hanukkah special, we chatted with Lorenzen about creating a uniquely Goldberg,’80s look for the dining table, mantel, and beyond. Plus, we’re gifting you with a sneak peek in the form of exclusive photos of the sets and decorations to get you in the holiday spirit.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s the approach to decorating the Goldberg’s home for Hanukkah? More is more?
CORY LORENZEN: With the Goldbergs’ house you always do as much as you think is right and then you want to double it because you’re trying to pump up whatever Beverly is trying to do. Here, she’s overcompensating for her celebration of Hanukkah so we get to go a little crazy with it. We wanted those big interior lights that are in there and all the garlands everywhere but part of that is also so that once you’re in there filming — and not just looking at an empty set photo — you see smaller portions of it even once there are people in there. We cheat a lot of those decorations into the frame to make sure you’re seeing some sparkle or garlands behind all the actors. Another reason we do so much in this episode is that we need to communicate that level of frenzy and over-decoration very quickly, so you can get a very quick read of the room and that space.
So do you sit there and think of it all through Beverly’s eyes?
Yeah, totally. We did another house for that episode, the Schwartz’s, and it’s very subdued and low-key and more of a traditional home. So yeah, it’s through the character’s eyes and not just what they’re actually saying but what we need to say through their actions. Beverly’s overcompensating and trying to show how into Hanukkah she is and because of that we have to think, ‘How do we communicate that quickly to an audience?’ So we have to go overboard — it looks like the place was shot with a garland cannon.
You also have the ’80s setting to contend with.
Yeah, it’s harder to get some of it because everything’s LED now, so you have to search and find the kind of period pieces that have that vintage feel.
Do you give background story to some items?
We come up with a story for some of the items that are in there. Some of the place settings and silverware and even the Menorah that’s used is like the stuff they’d bring out every year. It’s for the family, they’ve used forever. So we try to do it a little more tastefully thought out and we’re more particular with what’s being used. Then that contrasts with the more garish stuff that’s all over the whole house. Whenever we do Hanukkah or something that’s a recurring episode we use the same items we’ve used for previous years so it’s like they’re putting it away each year and bringing it back out.
What about the stockings?
The stockings are for a previous episode. That was a funny story point where Beverly was making the family celebrate Hanukkah a bit bigger, so they made the stockings a couple of seasons ago and now every year we make sure we have those out as a throwback.
Is it hard to find a lot of stuff?
Some things are really hard to source. There’s not as much Hanukkah decor out there as there is Christmas, so sometimes we’ve got to scavenge or paint things — like the poinsettias were white and we painted them blue. It’s just thinking, ‘How can we get this done?’ Also we’re shooting 3 months before [the holiday] so stuff isn’t available.
Do you love when there are themed episode, though, because you get to go a little further with the decor?
Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. You’re able to go crazy on Halloween or Hanukkah and it gives another layer of depth and digging into the characters. You want to tell everyone everything about these characters, and looking at their homes is one way of doing it.
The episode title is making me nervous. I hope nothing bad is going to happen to all your decorations.
These decorations get spared in the episode but another set have a little problem.
The Goldbergs airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.