On Set With PBS's Mr. Selfridge
Star Jeremy Piven and executive producer Kate Lewis share how a surprising location was transformed into an opulent set for the British period drama.You can’t help but marvel at the authentic sets in PBS’s Mr. Selfridge, a British period drama series that profiles the life of legendary department store owner and innovator, Harry Gordon Selfridge. Currently in production for season three, airing on Masterpiece, the lavish series stars Emmy Award-winning actor Jeremy Piven as the savvy American-born founder of Selfridges department store, which first opened in 1909 on London’s Oxford Street.
Piven gives credit to the show’s production designers for creating such beautiful sets in an old factory. “It's a tribute to everyone involved that they transform the space into this breathtaking place. It’s amazing what they're able to accomplish,” he says. “They paid such attention to detail that as an actor, it gives you a real sense of the ‘where.’”
“While a carpet warehouse is not the most glamorous location in the world to shoot in, it’s really big – three cavernous rooms – and we can fit all our sets in there,” adds Kate Lewis, the show’s executive producer. While the interiors are all shot in London, the exterior shots of Selfridges are filmed in the county of Kent, where the crew built an elaborate set that emulates the glamour of early 20th-century London.
“We are on location around and about in London, apart from our exterior store set, which we call our Selfridge bungalow,” Lewis says. “We film in the historic Chatham Dockyard in Kent, which is the same area as PBS’s series Call the Midwife. We constructed this incredible first tier of the exterior of Selfridge’s that people just can’t believe looks as good as it does.”
Off set, Lewis describes her own interior design style as “quite Swedish and vintage. It’s not Harry’s style at all. I like quite neutral colors and modern art.”
When the show is in production, Piven lives in both Los Angeles and London. “I love the architecture there, the vibe, the energy and the people,” he says. “It’s all perfect for me. I love the authenticity of the time period; people were actually conversing face to face.”
Season two of Mr. Selfridge is out on DVD/Blu-ray, in case you missed an episode. And if you’re a super fan, you can learn about the real Mr. Selfridge and his impressive collection of homes. Next up for Piven: the Entourage movie, which will surely showcase some stately mansions in Hollywood.