The Production Designer From “A League of Their Own” Shares Her Favorite Part of Recreating the 1940s

published Dec 20, 2022
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Credit: Ed Salsbury

Thirty years after its 1992 classic film counterpart, Prime Video debuted “A League of Their Own,” the comedy-drama series following an all-women’s baseball league. Set in the 1940s, the series follows Carson Shaw, played by Abbi Jacobson, pursuing her dreams of becoming a professional baseball player and meeting an entire team of aspiring female athletes that have the same goal.

The making of a women’s baseball team, complicated queer dynamics, and charismatic, comedic characters — what else could you ask for in a television show? Although reboots can be a hit or miss, the television adaptation of the Rockford Peaches has won the hearts of many, especially for their inclusive storylines about sexuality and race.

Between crafting entire baseball stadiums from scratch and designing the inside of the Peaches’ multi-family home, production designer Victoria Paul shared that one of the best parts of the series was the storytelling aspect that the 1992 film didn’t offer. Paul, who has spent years working on the sets of television shows like “NCIS: New Orleans,” noted that the biggest challenge while working on “A League of Their Own” was identifying locations for filming the baseball games.

In an interview with Apartment Therapy, Paul discloses the show’s filming locations — including a community college and an Amtrak station — and the process of designing the town’s African-American community.

Apartment Therapy: What interested you about “A League of Their Own?”

Victoria Paul: The thing I thought was terrific about [the series] was the iteration that we told in these stories, which were the stories of gay women and gay people. Also the Black community, especially about Black women, allowed the series to show this casual, ingrained racism and sexism. Those were stories that the movie 30 years ago couldn’t tell if it was interesting to them, but they certainly couldn’t do it the way we could do it. The reception was amazing. So many people saw themselves in that series, it was really wonderful.

AT: For the baseball stadiums/fields, was it a challenge to find a filming location at a stadium in the ’40s? What stadiums did you film at?

VP: The biggest challenge for us was finding somewhere with enough room so we could build the stadium, the road into the stadium, the parking area, the concession stands and the ticket booth. Finding a place with enough space was a really big challenge. The place we wound up at was maybe 40 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, and it was a community college.

AT: Did any of your inspiration behind the show’s sets derive from the original movie?

VP: We built that baseball stadium, and I have to say that it was a wonderful thing to build. But a lot of the stadiums from that period were of a similar ilk to existing stadiums that are still up and standing. There’s one in Ontario, California, outside of Philadelphia, and there’s one in Erie, Pennsylvania, and they all share real similar characteristics. We got to some of the other things that were more based on our scripts like the gay bar, the market, West Rockford (the African-American part of town).

AT: Regarding West Rockford — how did you go about creating the sets for the show’s Black environments like the hair salon and the church?
VP: One of our writers, Desta Tedros Reff is a Black woman, and she reached out to a couple of pastors while we were shooting in Pittsburgh. They were able to give us advice and educate us about all the revival tents.

And then we also had Max’s house. One of the things we thought about that house is that it’s her mother’s house, Toni, who plays a pretty big part in the show. And that woman thinks of herself as a real pillar of that community, and the house is her expression of herself. So everything is just really well kept and up to date. For example, the wallpaper that she has in the living room is from the 1940s.

AT: How about replicating the factory?

VP: The factory is really one of my favorite sets. We did a really deep dive on research for that not just about factories, but how the factories altered their production for World War II, especially since they were basically staffed by women. We found some photographs that showed these shiny new airplane fuselages that were being welded by women and just visually was like okay, that’s done, we’re done. Let’s build that.

Credit: Ed Salsbury

AT: Rockford, Illinois — What was the thought process behind designing the set of the characters’ homes?

VP: The Peaches’ house — the house that the team stayed in — wasn’t their home. They came from all over and became a team in Rockford. Our backstory for that place was that it was a Victorian house probably built in the 1890s, so a family house or group housing for students or a fraternity with all of those bedrooms upstairs and would be big enough to support a group of more than 12 women. And there were little nods to that history throughout the house like above the piano, there were a bunch of photographs of fraternities in the 1920s. 

A League of Their Own” is available to stream on Prime Video.