Production designer Bo Welch offers a preview of the Netflix series' second season
Each book in Lemony Snicket’s series A Series of Unfortunate Events takes place in a different location, which presents Netflix’s faithful adaptation with a unique problem: They are constantly building new sets. Each book takes up two episodes, which means once those episodes are done, the production team tears it down and creates something new, and because each location is idiosyncratic, they can’t recycle much.
“With us, every book is like making a new feature film — except, I always say, we’re making a feature film with a tenth of the budget and a quarter of the time, but it has to feel like a feature film,” says showrunner and executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld. “So the challenge in season 2 is that yes, indeed, the sets are bigger, the ambitions are bigger, the amount of action is bigger, mainly because the books get bigger.”
In season 2, the Baudelaire orphans — who have moved from guardian to guardian in the wake of their parents’ death, barely escaping the fiendish Count Olaf’s clutches each time (Neil Patrick Harris) — spend time in a depression academy, a fancy penthouse apartment, a carnival, and more, and each location looks wildly different from the previous one. Ahead of the show’s return, EW hopped on the phone with production designer (and frequent director) Bo Welch to discuss some of the season’s new settings. Read on to see some of the concept art from the season.
Esmé Squalor’s Penthouse Apartment
To convey the gaudy wealth of Esmé Squalor (Lucy Punch), the Baudelaire orphans’ compulsively trend-obsessed new guardian, Welch borrowed heavily from the art deco period. “Art deco is one of those architectural or decorating choices that is really about style,” says Welch. “There’s no other reason for its existence. It’s not born out of any other thing other than it’s decorative.”
Tacky was the goal of this unappetizingly named, salmon-themed restaurant. “Every molecule of that set relates to salmon,” says Welch, explaining that all of the furnishings, from the salmon chair-back covers to the wallpaper, were custom-made. “You take that idea — the idea of a themed restaurant — and just ratchet it up to its ridiculous extreme, and yet also present it as a real thing.”
Constructed on a soundstage and boasting a functioning roller coaster, this run-down carnival is supposed to remind the audience of the miserable state of the Baudelaires’ lives. “It just felt appropriate to me that as you approach the carnival, the dominant image is the rotting, falling-down roller coaster, but also that insane clown face, which is kind of ominous and yet still within the world of the carnival aesthetic,” says Welch.
The complete second season of A Series of Unfortunate Events will be available March 30.