Creating a talk show during a pandemic requires a new set of rules. For Apple TV+’s The Oprah Conversation, Lorne Greene, co-founder of experiential agency Viva Creative, designed an environment that dovetails perfectly with the remote communication age.
For the two debut episodes, which focus on racial biases, Greene created mirror sets for host Oprah Winfrey and her lead guest, former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho. Winfrey’s minimalist set was built on her Montecito estate (by one carpenter), while Acho’s existing white-box setup in L.A. (for his YouTube show Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man) was kitted out to be nearly identical.
“We presented the idea of making [the monitors] float, if you will,” says Greene, who notes that cameras (all operated remotely) were set at identical angles to enhance the mirror effect. Greene also used ultra-large monitors to present Winfrey and Acho at life-size. The result feels as if the two are almost in the same place. Five more guests, seen on smaller screens, appeared on white backgrounds. Says Greene, “It wasn’t about where they were, it was about who they are.”
Greene also looked to the late Steve Jobs for inspiration. “[He] always promoted the idea of making the technology disappear,” says Greene, who describes his own design this way: “It’s people talking to people, not people talking to technology.”
This story first appeared in the Aug. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.