The Consultant is a highly intriguing television series. From the moment it begins, it hooks you in almost immediately, as the mystery of who exactly Regus Patoff (Christoph Waltz) is takes up most of the show. That mysterious presence that imbued Waltz’s performance as Patoff, a character that entraps other protagonists, is also found in the sets, which, according to Production Designer Clarence Major, was trying to ensure that audiences “were drawn into this elaborate maze. Once you’re in that labyrinth, you’re unsure where you are or how you became entrapped in this environment. You’re constantly asking yourself, “Do I want out?” I did that with several sets, like the jewelry store, which was a prime location. Frank Florez [Juan Carlos Cantu] was drawing lots of people in his store, which is exactly what Patoff is always doing. He’s trapping you in and taking little pieces out of you.
The idea was simple. We start with a shiny front area, and then it becomes degraded when we go into his workspace. But when we go into the smelting room, it’s a dungeon. That concept also recurred in the server room set. The server room is high-tech, but the walls have started to become degraded. As you get into the records room, it’s a dungeon, and it’s all about entrapment. I did the same thing with the club but in reverse. Initially, were going to have the characters come up in a glass elevator. However, because of budgetary reasons, we weren’t able to do that. But when Craig [Nat Wolff] and Patoff come up the elevator, it’s very narrow. I purposefully made it extremely small. These are elements that made it seem as if you’re in a prison.”
The idea of a sinister presence is also reflected on CompWare’s glass stairs, which were “a tip to the idea of a sinister, and deep spiritual cynicism going on. The stairs are designed to have multiple colors. As you see at the party, they become another color. However, I was always trying to play with those ideas. We also do that in the church with the lighting through the lighting. When you’re standing on those stairs, they’re pretty scary. I designed them so that each step would be unique. I was going to try to do them without steel, it’s just all glass, and just hold them being held by the end in pieces. However, that didn’t work out engineering-wise. But it was always about being on the edge”
Prep time on building each set was extremely limited, with Major stating that he had “three weeks of prep. It was not enough time. We were promised to do the club in that first block, which was a huge uplift but at the end of the block. However, we did that on the first day of the shoot, and we didn’t even have a location [laughs]. But I’ve been to this party before, and we rose to the occasion, because challenges are opportunities.”
The club set is one of the show’s most intricate designs. When Craig comes back to pick up his clothes after the evening, he takes a peek at the club, and it gets transformed into an office space. In designing two spaces to feel almost identical, Major described its challenges and explained that the “space is actually to the inch. When he walks into the space, it’s the same place, but we need to convey that Craig thinks as if he is out of his mind. The whole place feels the same. I wish he had gone into the space and interacted with it because I had a 3D model of the whole space and visual effects. You could move into the space the same way that I designed the space, but it didn’t happen.”
In trying to present a division between the CompWare employees and Patoff, Major explained that “it goes back to the original owner and how he played it. It’s a flat organization in the sense that there’s no hierarchical system. That’s also why Elaine [Brittany O’Grady] is trying to get a position and name it herself. But it’s also making sure that the people in the office are uneven or unstable where they can’t figure out how to get a better position at the office. When Patoff comes in, he exploits that. Elaine and Patoff are at the top, but everyone else is at the same level.”
Major also praised showrunner Tony Basgallop‘s vision on the show and stated that “he’s always setting up this scenario where two parallel things are going on. It could be a coincidence or something more nefarious. When Craig is in the car, he’s having a panic attack, but we’re seeing it from Patoff’s point of view, and he is very calm. But the truth is we, as the audience are experiencing his panic attack. If you watch that scene again, you’ll start to see a lot of the parallels happening and understand why he’s not telling his girlfriend [Aimee Carrero] about the guys who came in and crashed into the jewelry store. Was he being cheated? Was he being followed? Or is it happening randomly?
Is someone coming after him when someone smashes his window at his house, or are those two drunk guys? But all of these things start to make sense as the show progresses. If you start to see the two parallels that are going on simultaneously, you’ll see that there are plenty of secret things going on, and we put a lot of easter eggs in the design. At some point, Patoff is in his office, and he kept wanting this paperweight, but it’s the world he’s holding in his hands. That’s a small detail that very few have noticed, and there’s much more where that came from.”
The Consultant is now available to stream on Prime Video.
[Some quotes were edited for length and clarity]