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How ‘Severance’ perfected its creepy, beautiful visual language

When we first meet Helly R., the indefatigable heroine of “Severance,” she’s splayed on a conference table in a windowless room carpeted in putrid shades of green. She awakens, for the first time, as an “innie” – someone who’s elected to sever their brain so that they can perform their work duties as a person separate from who they are out of the office – an extreme means of achieving work-life balance.

The boardroom where she’s “birthed” into life as an innie at Lumon, the mysterious corporation at the center of “Severance,” is also a womb of sorts. And when she leaves it, she’ll be confined only to the contained, labyrinthine world of the Lumon building, which doubles as a mid-century prison.

Jeremy Hindle, “Severance’s” Emmy-nominated production designer, took the “birthing” metaphor and ran with it, creating a world within a world at Lumon. It’s a spare, meticulously designed environment that, at first blush, is impressive and aesthetically pleasing. But the longer you spend within Lumon, the more menacing it becomes.

“It should be this beautiful environment, but also, they’re experimenting on them underground,” Hindle told CNN.

That guiding principle – that the world of “Severance” should be beautiful and chilling at once – helped mold the Apple TV+ drama into one of the most exciting, perplexing and visually striking series of 2022, earning it 14 Emmy nominations. CNN spoke to Hindle and set decorator Andrew Baseman, also nominated for an Emmy for his work on the series, about how they created the deeply unsettling world of “Severance,” where everything is stunning and ever so slightly off.

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