Working as a production designer for over two decades—on such series as HBO’s Hung and United States of Tara, and more recently on John Ridley’s American Crime and Black Hole—Richard Toyon just received his second Emmy nomination for his work on Silicon Valley (and third overall).
As on all his projects, Toyon starts with a concrete philosophy on what his work can and should accomplish—he leaves the comedy to the writers and the actors—and with Silicon Valley he set out to reflect the tech startup mindset in the spaces the main characters inhabit. Having good friends working in Silicon Valley was helpful, especially when it came to the “hacker hostel”—also known as Erlich Bachman’s house, where the characters live and work on Pied Piper. Toyon had to expand past series creator Mike Judge’s notes that the space be filled with cheap and retro items. “There are some rug weavings, some macramé, some screen-printed pieces of art, and all of those are kind of from eras of the past,” he says. Toyon also threw in a signature of his own. In a corner of the house is a dreamcatcher to reflect his own Native American background. “I always have a little Native American piece in every set that I do,” he says.
The most challenging space this season that Toyon had to create was that of Homicide, the company selling an energy drink modeled after Red Bull. “The process involved taking an empty warehouse and then filling it with giant shelves and 15,000 cases of Homicide energy drink,” he says. Toyon even oversaw the design of 11 different flavors of the drink and worked on “complete campaigns for Homicide—the graphics and the big banners.” Adding to the challenge was the fact that Toyon and his staff are only given five days of prep time, and five days on set.
Another crazy day was shooting the first episode of Season 2, “Sand Hill Shuffle,” at AT&T Park in San Francisco, where the crew met with torrential rains. “That was unbelievable,” Toyon says. “We were rain-free for the entire season up until the time we went up there. A storm passed through and we were inundated. For the first four or five hours that night everyone was standing in the tunnels until it passed.”
After doing some proof-of-concept work for HBO, Toyon will return for Season 3 of Silicon Valley.
To see a tour of the hacker hostel in the Emmy-nominated comedy series, click play below: