This interview with “A Friend of the Family” production designer John D. Kretschmer first appeared in the Below-the-Line issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
A miniseries created by Nick Antosca (“Channel Zero”), “A Friend of the Family” deals with the charming but sinister Robert Berchtold (Jake Lacy), who spent years seducing, brainwashing and eventually kidnapping — twice — a young Idaho girl, Jan Broberg (played by Hendrix Yancey and Mckenna Grace at different ages). The story “is pretty much a gut punch,” production designer John D. Kretschmer said. “However, this family survived, and they are still alive and happy and a loving family today. That makes them very intriguing, and I thought (it was) very much a story that needs to be told.”
Kretschmer and his team wanted to honor the Broberg family, right down to re-creating their Pocatello Idaho home. They did so in Atlanta, where they found a house on a hill that proved to be a surprising visual match. “We had a big-sky horizon and a house to renovate,” he said. “We matched the windows to the original house and replicated the floor plan exactly.”
The miniseries also takes some of the most comforting places we all traverse (roller rinks, ice cream parlors, flower shops, churches) and clouds them with dread — especially as young Jan navigates her adolescence with Robert in often scary proximity. And while Jan was heavily involved in the making of “Family,” Berchtold committed suicide in 2005 and remains a mystery.
“We had very little to go on,” said Kretschmer, who also designed all eight seasons of Showtime’s “Homeland” before tackling “Family.” “But this was a guy who had plenty of money, and we knew his house was full of games and a player piano. And luckily, we were able to pull the police reports and get nearly the exact model of RV that he drove, a GMC 260.”
Kretschmer added that his own background was a key in crafting the look of the nine-episode miniseries. “I am exactly the same age as Jan Broberg, so I very much lived in this world,” he said. “I grew up in a Protestant neighborhood in North Carolina that was probably very similar to Jan’s Mormon neighborhood. I think the response that I’ve appreciated the most from both the Brobergs and Nick and the writing staff is that it all looks and feels authentic. And at the end of the day, that’s what we wanted to achieve.”
Read more from the Below-the-Line issue here.