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Krypton, Superman’s home planet galaxies away, is rarely the main setting of most Superman adaptations. Usually, we’ll catch a few glimpses of it at the beginning of a movie or in the occasional flashback, but the action is almost always on Earth. However, that’s not the case with Syfy’s new drama, which is set entirely on Kal-El’s doomed home planet, many years before his birth.
Executive produced by David Goyer, Krypton follows Superman’s grandfather Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe) as he fights a conspiracy from the present that traveled back in time to prevent Superman from becoming, well, Superman. Now Seg-El faces a tough decision: Does he save his planet from destruction, or let it die so his grandson’s heroic future remains intact. At this point in Krypton’s history, the once-storied House of El has fallen on hard times and has been ostracized, and the planet’s leadership is in disarray.
Given the fact that the show would be taking us into parts of Krypton we rarely see, like living quarters, hangouts, and military bases, production designer Ondrej Nekvasil and the show’s producers had to establish some basic facts for the planet when it came time to design the show’s world, i.e. the sets. For example: What kind of planet is Krypton? What materials does it have? How would it compare to Earth? Is it ornate and architectural, or one that places more emphasis on surroundings being functional?
“We were trying to create a world that was believable,” Nekvasil tells EW. “The key thing is that on Krypton, all of the people on Krypton look like people on Earth. So, the scale of the set and the scale of the spaces has to be similar to what we know because the people live there.”
He continued, “Because life on the planet is kind of tough, they don’t do designs. If they make something, it’s because they use it and they would like to use it for life. It’s not because they would like to design something. We were trying to stay away from the over-design, over-dressed rooms. We were trying to show that everything has some kind of practical reason for why it’s there.”
Below, Nekvasil walks us through the world of Krypton with the help of exclusive set design sketches and corresponding episodic images of some of the show’s most important sets.
The Fortress of Solitude
If you’ve watched any Superman show or movie, or have read the comics, then you’re no doubt familiar with the Fortress of Solitude, Superman’s little slice of Krypton located in the Arctic. Well, Krypton plans on introducing you to the original Fortress, which serves two functions for the House of El.
“What was important is that this place is not just a workshop or laboratory. It’s also some kind of spiritual place for the family,” says Nekvasil. “They also keep all the things they’ve invented. Not only the grandfather of our hero, but also his grandfather and his grandfather.”
In order to emphasize how important this place is to the House of El, they built a statue, which depicts the first members of the House of El, and decided to chronicle the family’s history in carving on the windows. The figures you see on the stain-glass windows in the image above aren’t just ornamental. That’s Kryptonese, Krypton’s language, and when translated, it actually lists the names of each family member and a description of their lives. “What I like personally is that it almost looks like an abstract graphic, but that it’s actually letters and you can read it if you want. If somebody has time to find out the details, everything makes sense,” says the production designer.
Fort Rozz’s War Room
On The CW’s Supergirl, Fort Rozz is a prison that holds some of Krypton’s worst criminals; however, on Krypton, Fort Rozz is still a military base. “The concept [of the design] is that it’s very utilitarian,” says Nekvasil. “Everything that’s there has to make sense for the people working there.” That explains why this doesn’t look like your typical military compound with gratuitous computer and monitors.
“Seg’s apartment is based in the poorest part of the city [of Kandor],” says Nekvasil. “It’s actually the basic place, from our point of view.” They tried to capture this in how barebones their furniture looks, which they imagined was made from metal sheets that the Els could use to make whatever they need. “For us, it’s kind of a metallic mesh of Krypton. It’s very strong material. They can bend it. They can build chairs and tables. From our perspective, that was the cheapest way to build furniture.”
When it came to the furniture’s seemingly random pattern, the production turned to the “micro-cosmos” for inspiration. “We actually used details from butterflies or details from leaves. We found these textures in nature. We just used them on a bigger scale,” he says, adding that they used steel to build the actual furniture.”
“It’s a very basic bar. They don’t have money for design,” explains Nekvasil about the above set, which looks like the Kryptonian version of a dive bar. “We went to different types of real bars, and in one bar, we saw the concept that somebody just [hung used] bottles above the bar as kind of decoration. So, what about Kem is doing the same thing? He’s just hanging the old bottles from the ceiling.”
The Guilded area corridor
We spent time in the poorest parts of Kandor, and now it’s time to visit the upper-class section of the city, which happens to be literally above the poor part. Nekvasil revealed that Seg’s apartment and Kem’s bar are located at the bottom of the city, and the guild areas are located above, closer to the sky. In the world of the show, this corridor — which is one of the city’s many tunnels that allows guild members to travel between buildings with ease (i.e. without having to descend to the poorer sections of the city) — was designed to let as much sunlight in as possible because the sun is an important part of Kryptonian society. “It’s a theocratic society, and they believe in the [god] Rao, and Rao is the sun,” explains Nekvasil.
Krypton — which also stars Georgina Campbell, Elliot Cowan, Ann Ogbomo, Rasmus Hardiker, Wallis Day, Aaron Pierre, and Ian McElhinney — premieres March 21 on Syfy.