‘Hacks’ production designer Jonathan Carlos on Deborah Vance’s Mansion – Deadline


The image of Las Vegas in a person’s mind is filled with casinos and luxury hotels, but for HBO Max’s Hacks, production designer Jonathan Carlos wanted to show a more varied picture of Las Vegas. While filming in California, he was responsible for recreating the style and feel of different parts of Las Vegas.

Hacks follows legendary Las Vegas comedian Deborah Vance, played by Jean Smart, who seeks to appeal to a younger audience by engaging a titled 25-year-old writer named Ava, played by Hannah Schwier.

Much of the series takes place in Deborah Vance’s villa, which Carlos modeled on the architecture of a French castle. With the dawn of a French influence, the design was inspired by Vance’s character to complete the look of a grounded and realistic home that matches her personality.

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DEADLINE: What were you looking for to represent Las Vegas when you were looking for the locations for the show?

JONATHAN CARLOS: We really wanted to show many aspects of Las Vegas. There are the traditional aspects of Vegas that everyone only knows as a tourist, such as the opulent casinos and the Strip. We were able to recreate the palmetto ourselves by showcasing some of the more opulent poker rooms and casinos compared to the comp room Ava had, which was in a neglected room with a view of the air conditioners from her window. In addition, we tried to showcase the lifestyle of a Las Vegas resident. So it showed in both, how Deborah had this mansion, how the other half lived, but then she would venture into as many places as the antique shop and pizzeria that opened on the edge of one of the suburbs of Las Vegas. It really showed the different levels of residences and lifestyle that are there.

DEADLINE: And how were the first discussions with the makers about design, especially in-house?

CARLOS: We talked very early about how we wanted to add realism to the surroundings so that they read more like a drama than a comedy. It was really important that the environments were not hyperbolic and based on realism so that Deborah’s character was not a caricature and you could really see a strong character development in the environment that was not so exaggerated and immensely ridiculous that you can alienate yourself from it, to understand her as a real person and not just as a comedic element.

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Courtesy of HBO Max

DEADLINE: How do you go about designing a home based on the style and opinions of a person who doesn’t really exist?

CARLOS: Even if we meet her after living in the house for a few years, it is important for me to understand where she is from and what she has done to create this environment, including her life story and professional difficulties she is facing has borne itself over the last few decades, which can also be seen in the house.

We joked that she probably hired a top architecture firm and an interior design firm to help design the property and landscaping, and that halfway through the job she would have fired everyone for being unsatisfied with the quality or orientation. because Deborah knows best. And then she would have finished it herself, traveled the world, found architectural elements, found support, inspiration, art and brought it back and taken on the project herself.

DEADLINE: What did you pay attention to when looking for a location for your estate?

CARLOS: We knew we were going to build the interior on the stage, so the most important aspect was to find an exterior with a foyer entrance that would suit the architectural style I wanted to put on the stage. The script called for a French castle, so that was the main architectural element we were looking for. I wanted to find a house that was essentially laid out in a formal grid. As if arched doors lead one into another and you could see one room through another portal into another room. I want to say that between in-person and online digital scouting, we probably looked at around a hundred villas before we landed on the one we picked. It had the perfect imposing facade that was strong but also feminine. And it fits the architectural style of the interior that I wanted to create: extremely large, extremely impressive, and extremely statuesque.

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