Production designer Laura Fox, who transformed Four Seasons Maui into an uncomfortable pineapple-bedded paradise, faced some challenges like HBO’s “The White Lotus” when Tammy Faye Baker made “The Ice of Tammy Faye” for Baker.
Neither director Michael Schwalter, who played the title character, nor producer-actress Jessica Chastain, wanted to laugh at the fluent televangelist, yet some part of her life was no doubt over-the-top, such as her terrific doll collection. Fox said “research, research, research” was original, although very few detailed descriptions of his surroundings existed, which allowed him a creative license to create original sets such as Bucker House and their studio. “It wasn’t their true taste or decorator about weaving ideas together and figuring out how to enrich them,” she says.
Fox shared sketches and insights on how he created the world of Tammy Faye and Jim Baker and embraced their fall.
Building Tammy’s World
There were no pictures of their original home, but I saw their studio still standing in South Carolina, so I went and immediately scouted it and there I got a lot of clues. I found out that her dressing room is a floor-to-ceiling mirror. The gym’s dressing room was down in a maze of halls and it was like this wooden war room, but also a huge mirrored area. So Vanity, the separation of those things started to come to my mind.
I also interviewed people there, and everyone knows Tammy, everyone still loves Tammy. I also got this weird interview where he said he had two volume dolls on his kitchen table, so I started getting these weird bits and pieces and that’s where it all started.
The Baker House
Tammy’s bedroom and her portrait
I didn’t have time to pose for Tommy for Jessica, so I took the best pictures from the makeup tests and a graphic designer created them. We blew those pictures, applied a paint treatment on them and framed them. I didn’t see them as art collectors, so we kept them around the house
We found a house, but finding the right house was really hard because it was set in the 80’s, so when we found one, we emptied it.
I decided to put the bed in the middle of the room because she was always there, and visitors should not look at a wall. We had a great DP, Michael Ziolakis, who wasn’t afraid of mirrors. I added two walls of mirrors, white shag carpet and lots of gold. There was gold cloth wallpaper because I was thinking ‘What makes you look and feel rich?’ And I added the pink velvet bed because it was very girlish.
For the dolls you started to see, I spent almost every weekend at an affordable store. I found a place called Wanda, it was full of lots of old grocery store dolls, and this is this magical place. She had an old tree skirt for the small Christmas trees, but it was an endless place. Almost everything was from Wonder. I texted costume designer Mitchell Travers and told him to go there. He also got things from there.
But the idea of the design was Jessica since Tammy would be the brightest star, the centerpiece and everything else would fade.
With plants, I used fake plants of that era because nowadays fake plants are not one. The house we had was a little smaller than me but had huge windows with that beautiful view of the lake. We had a drink tray because she was constantly eating sweets and drinking diet coke. I wanted to create that background of soft cream and gold to brighten. The couches were white velvet, there was a lot of softness. Next, I drew all the gold on the green plants because it was indicative of this evolution. I added more gold and lamps because they lived in the same house forever and they were associated with becoming more prosperous.
When they do their iconic confessional work on TV, I was holding a picture to match as closely as possible because it was infamous.
700 Club Studio
I loved rebuilding the studio with doll shows. It was clever because when they were taken out, all the tapes were destroyed and you couldn’t find that show, there was little reference.
The big set was the aggregation of all their sets. Her dressing room had lots of shoes, so we wore 200 pairs and 20 wigs, again there was the white carpet which was the signature I gave them. The crew was extremely respectful of the set. I looked inside and saw a bunch of shoes and a white carpet.