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The New CIA
The unofficial CIA headquarters is set inside an art deco building. "All the detailing — the metal work, the columns, the handrails and the staircases — all have an industrial art-deco feel to them," Lee says. "When the CIA takes it over, they've brought in the ultra-modern technology." Though it may seem like the railings and such are metal, Lee reveals that it's just a Hollywood trick: They're actually made out of plaster, painted over to look aged. The oversized lamps overhead also provide the majority of the set's lighting.
"The CIA logo was designed with the lighting in mind because the lettering is in quite strong relief," Lee says. "We placed the light on the left-hand side and it cast a lovely shadow in bold relief of the lettering." The colors in the logo are "very muted," an intentional decision to play off the fact that the CIA's London station is off the grid.
The main bullpen on the CIA set is where most of the action takes place on 24: Live Another Day and though the image only showcases the central area, there are a lot of unseen areas viewers will discover. Under the columns on the left is a large conference table for likely debriefs, for instance. “There’s a whole world beyond it — of offices and corridors that go all around the back," Lee says, adding that the CIA set was the most challenging to conceptualize "because it didn't exist."
“The CIA in this show is supposed to be a deniable black site in Britain. It doesn’t officially exist, so they’re hiding away," Lee says of the set's dark palette. "We didn’t want it to be bright, shiny, new or in a new building." The look and feel was inspired by Britain's industrial history, a point of interest for 24 producers Manny Coto and Evan Katz.
Chloe's hacker hub was originally scripted to be in a church but "it ended up looking a little bit like the CIA," Lee admits, prompting them to go "down a whole different route." Because she works for "a Julian Assange/Wikileaks kind of guy," it was important for the space — an abandoned restaurant in an old Gillette factory — to feel temporary yet personalized (i.e. wall graffiti), as well as "colorful" and "anarchic." "We built these green computer servers in the middle of the shot; they're like suitcase units, so everything's very mobile," Lee says. "They could close all this stuff up in an hour's notice and be gone before the police raid the place."
Think of it as the unofficial Oval Office while the president's away from D.C. "We wanted it to feel more benign, private but also powerful," Lee says. "When you meet someone in this room, you think 'Wow, this is an important dude.'" The deep padded red walls, made of fabric, convey a sense of comfort and trustworthiness. "We didn't it want it to feel at all scary or ominous in any way," he says. The State Room and the president's private office also have working fireplaces, which are often on during filming.
"The key word was opulence," Lee says of the main room, inspired by late 18th-century architecture. It was crucial that the gathering place feel comfortable yet worthy of a high-ranking politician. Lee estimates that roughly half the furniture are original period pieces found in antique shops, while the other half are rented. His biggest worry came in the form of the 13 meter-long rug, hand-woven in India from a computer design. "I was extremely nervous … because I never saw it being made. It was a great risk for me," Lee recalls. "It arrived at the very last minute just before filming. When I unrolled it, it was a massive sigh of relief."
The office of the president's chief of staff is indicative of his place in the political sphere. Married to the president's daughter, the president's chief of staff is often caught in the middle, hence the intentional placement of the desk and chairs against the curtained windows. "I wanted his room be symmetrical," Lee says, "so he can look one way to his wife and one way to the president." Lee describes him as "slightly Machiavellian," playing "power games behind the president's back." "You might feel a little bit intimidated coming into this office."