How ‘Wednesday’ Production Designer Found a Gothic Castle With “an Addams Family Vibe”
Mark Scruton was tasked with building not just a spooky boarding school for Tim Burton’s Netflix series — he also created a New England town and theme park in Romania.
To revive the Addams Family for Tim Burton, production designer Mark Scruton’s brief was very clear. “We were not trying to copy anything else — it’s not a sequel, it’s not a reinvention, it’s a new thing,” he says. Scruton went back to cartoonist Charles Addams’ source material to evoke Wednesday’s world and, together with Burton and an illustrator, started by sketching out mirthless Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) and bubbly Enid’s (Emma Myers) dorm room, which would set the tone for everything else.
“It is a micro of everything. The difference between [boarding school] Nevermore and [the small town] Jericho is the same as between Enid and Wednesday,” Scruton explains. “The window grew from wanting to give a strong graphic bond to the fact that the two were complete opposites. I wanted one half stained glass and one half completely monochrome. But we had to backtrack into it and go, ‘Enid’s done all the coloring herself, so Wednesday can scrape it all off and then it causes even more tension between them.’ You get this fantastic, literal split down the middle, which works so well on the show.”
That is where things got complicated, as their plan to shoot the Netflix series in Toronto fell apart and the exterior Scruton had imagined was scrapped. “[Toronto] just didn’t fit, basically. We had to find somewhere else that could offer us more space,” he says. Enter Romania, which became the home to the eerie Nevermore Academy, cheesy theme park Pilgrim World and quintessential American small town Jericho, to name a few of Scruton’s creations. “In 15 weeks, we went from a swampy shrub land to Jericho town as you see it in the show,” says Scruton. “There was a big farmer’s field next to the studio that we could rent by the strip. We could say, ‘We’ll have 30 of these strips,’ and build from the ground up.”
The castle used as Nevermore was chosen for its Gothic Revival quality. “It had that Addams Family vibe to it,” says Scruton. “Tim’s not a big fan of color. I know, who would’ve thought? But this castle had a good gray stone and a heavy feel to it. It was perfect for us.” While the turret and front facade exist in real life and were dressed for the show, the rest of the exterior is CGI magic. The dorm room was then redesigned to fit. “When we found the new location, we went back to bring in the design details that matched the castle. The whole front balcony was redesigned, and we took brick and details off the real castle so it all tied together.”
Knowing he is as strong as the team he assembles, Scruton praises the Romanian crew who brought their A-game. “[We] really found people who wanted to show what Romania could do and make it work,” he says. “People that had left the industry came back to work on this show. The sculptors and plasterers, they had been part of the film industry and left because there wasn’t enough film industry to support that many. We weren’t rich on time in the end, and we couldn’t have done it without them.”