The set design and settings of Griselda have a lot to do with the narrative of the successful TV series. To better understand how and why the houses played a central role, we interviewed the team of stage designers

Among the most followed TV series of the first quarter of 2024, Griselda has solicited numerous curiosities relating to the true story of the protagonist Griselda Blanco, 'godmother' of the drug trafficking in the 70s and 80s between Colombia and Miami.

Proposed by Netflix in mini-series format (there are only 6, in fact, episodes), Griselda is played by a brilliant Sofia Vergara who opens the pilot episode immersed in a domestic environment at night, already openly expressive of the entire mood of the screenplay.

The typically 1970s interiors of a Colombian home provide the backdrop to the settings of the next two properties in which the protagonist finds herself living and leading the story. Wallpaper with geometric patterns, floral motifs and coordinated upholstery. From Medellín, in fact, Griselda escapes with her three children to Miami, where she will live in two new homes directly proportional to the success of her trafficking.

The set design of the Netflix series is the result of careful research conducted by the team of professionals, who worked to ensure that it best intertwined with the plot, helping to outline the narrative.

In an exclusive interview, Kim Leonard - set decorator of Griselda, Gary McMonnies - art director of Griselda and Stephanie Eventov - founder of Society of Wonderland and designer of the Uptown wallpaper used to set up some scenes, explained to INTERNI how they did it in a successful way.

How did you work on the setting of Griselda in terms of interiors?

Kim Leonard: "There were no references to the real houses where Griselda Blanco lived. So we created it by studying the 70s/80s and knowing what was happening politically and culturally in the world, the continued influx of different cultures into America and their perspective on American culture, and consequently the impact on cuisine, art, design, etc. This automatically gives input on what the tone of the sets should be. It is built starting from there: it is therefore not an imitation, but an interpretation and a creation. Most of these sets were shot in real locations, so the architecture actually exists. We set up the environments with furniture, chandeliers, plants, art, art objects, color, tone, among others".

Gary McMonnies: "As Kim mentioned, there was no specific reference to Griselda. We did a lot of research on the houses and buildings of the time and wanted to convey an idea of what it might have been like in those times, as well as highlighting the narrative through design. We then looked at several very glamorous and other unattractive images from the time and tried to proceed with what seemed most suitable for the storytelling".

Griselda changes several homes during the course of the TV series, how did you plan them?

Kim Leonard: "We had to convey a progression of richness in the spaces of Griselda during her ascent. When she first arrives at Miami, she and her children are staying with a friend in a bedroom, and as time goes by, she has many increasingly larger and more lavish homes. This reflects her >rise to power. With each space one perceives that the colors become more lively, the patterns and fabrics align (a fact indicative of its organization which becomes stronger and more structured), and in the villa shot at the end of the series, which is from the early 1980s, the gold, the silks, the Asian imports - they are the result that "has arrived" - Griselda can have everything she wants and everything he dreamed of. He is at the peak of power."

Gary McMonnies: "The goal was always to move the goalposts further and further forward based on how his style progresses. Every house, every dwelling had to be bigger and better than the previous one, to highlight his rise to power. Filming is always a collaborative experience, there is no single voice. A collaboration between director, operator, artistic direction, construction, decoration of the set, script, etc. We all wanted to show his journey in an increasingly elaborate world."

What were the key elements around which you thought?

Kim Leonard: "Each location chosen already had its own particular style - therefore already equipped with key pieces of furniture. Let's take the example of the Palm Beach villa, which was a bit run down. We wanted to convey the idea that it was almost a shelter, plus the house had been abandoned. So by playing on that story, in my mind I had imagined that the furniture had been there for some time, perhaps left by a widow. Covered, or simply abandoned. In Palm Beach, a city well known for its wealth, one finds expensive rattan furniture with fabrics personalized in the veranda and opulent Louis XVI pieces in the formal living room where guests are received. For the Miami villa, the "big step" for purchasing a house , Griselda would certainly have hired an interior decorator: here, in fact, everything is combined; turquoise is introduced to design an elegant environment, and we begin to see the inclusion of gold. In the final home, an excess of gilding and gold, silk, art and Asian-influenced styles (very popular at the time), completed from modern leather corner sofas.

Gary McMonnies: "Money and power! We all felt the desire to tell this extraordinary story about money and power. Always keeping in mind the woman and mother who was behind it all every decision on the location, the décor, the construction of the set, the color palette and everything else were chosen to give voice to this story."

What are the elements to keep an eye on while watching the TV series?

Kim Leonard: "As I did for inspiration, you can keep an eye on the elements taken from the periods mentioned. For example in America, the 70s saw the birth of disco, but there were still many economic struggles. The 80s were instead a period of excesses, but also of cultural changes, combined with technological innovations. These are well observable factors in the sets of Griselda, reflected in the choice of furnishings and accessories : from the shapes of the glasses to the patterns, from the colors of the furniture that change from brown/gold to the brighter colors and prints. Personally, I was inspired by designers like Vera Neumann (from the 70s) and to his way of valorizing wood and recycled elements; Tony Duquette and Steve Chase for the 80s vibes (their use of metals), but also Mario Bellini for modern leather notes".

Gary McMonnies: "I think Kim summed it up best. It's the ultimate driving factor in the style we see on the sets, as Kim and her incredible team brought so many influences and facets to the show, every day, on every single set!".

What was the role of the wallpaper? How did you identify it?

Kim Leonard: "The wallpaper was a key element. Selected in accordance with the key pieces of furniture identified to express the visual narrative. We certainly chose it for the imagination, but the leading role was colour: always identified in a personalized way to highlight the texture and dialogue with the furnishings".

Gary McMonnies: "I selected the wallpaper design (Society of Wonderland x Astek) along with some other samples, after a long and demanding search. We needed something bold and graphic, because we didn't want it to get lost in the 'whole' of the set or even just act as a background. It's an element necessarily tailored to the needs of the space and the story.

So I identified what satisfied me most and, after showing it to our Production Designer and Kim, I worked on it with Photoshop and translated the original version into a new one that mixes gold and bronze that best conveyed what I wanted. I knew that the wallpaper manufacturer we worked with, namely Astek, could adapt it and personalize it.

In the end the gold and bronze version was chosen, as we didn't want to create too much contrast with the wonderful sofas that Kim had designed for the space. I was definitely satisfied when I saw the final product and how it looked in the camera."

How has the use of wallpaper changed from the 70s to today?

Stephanie Eventov: "In the 70s the use of wallpaper and strong colors were very common. They were used almost unconsciously, as a way to show an inclination towards strong aesthetics of the time that pervaded every space.

Being eccentric in the 70s was normal. Today the function is different: the wallpaper and the bright color help to assert its character and to stand out from the minimalist approach much loved in interiors, now taken for granted and safe.

It's also a way to show your personality and evoke an emotion. With my collections for Society of Wonderland I love creating dialogues and interweavings between current references and previous decades, in particular the Seventies. I always try to use a modern approach that winks at a futuristic style.

In Uptown, the line used for the series, I explore the idea of layering opacities and transparencies to create a three-dimensional effect, resulting in a bold yet elegant look."