Kimberly Wannop’s job has taken her many places: a village in Qatar, a CBS morning show, a Georgia election office — all the way to the White House.
Not the actual places, necessarily. But seeing the Holy Spirit High School graduate standing in the sets she and her team decorated for the HBO comedy show “Veep,” you could easily be fooled.
Wannop’s work was impressive enough to win her an Emmy award earlier this month for production design in a narrative program. Also winning an Emmy was the show’s star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus — her sixth win in a row for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series.
For Wannop, whose family moved to Northfield when she was in fifth grade, her first Emmy win after two previous nominations was a long time coming.
Wannop said an art teacher at Holy Spirit noted her knack for drawing up blueprints and influenced her to go into interior design, which wasn’t even in her vocabulary back then. She attended Philadelphia University and, after graduating in 1999, left the East Coast for Los Angeles.
“I thought I’d give myself eight weeks, and after six weeks I landed my first job and I’ve been working steadily ever since,” Wannop said.
She began working in TV and film, helping design sets for programs such as “Wheel of Fortune.” She continued working in art departments for hit shows such as “Bones” (six seasons), “Brooklyn 99” (one season) and “Parks and Recreation” (four seasons).
Wannop credits her team at HBO, but also doesn’t sell herself short when it comes to her accolades.
“I never really like to say I’m lucky. I work hard,” she said.
In terms of set decorating, Wannop said a space can really influence a character.
“You can walk into a room and you can feel comfortable or the room or setting can be dirty,” Wannop said. “I didn’t see it as a career, but I was always interested in furniture design and textures and colors.”
Wannop said “Veep” is an interesting experience, as a large chunk of the show is based around a pretty concrete setting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“For the White House, they had already shot that for four seasons, so I just had to keep that look that they had. But we got to do the Green Room and the Red Room and the dining room, so we worked with plants and urns and we did a lot of research,” she said.
But unlike shows such as “House of Cards” or “The West Wing,” Wannop said her team tries to make the setting look as real as possible. It’s not high style but more about the wires they saw hanging from the ceiling of the actual White House.
“Sort of like a documentary, we go for realism,” she said.
A total of 152 individual sets were designed this past season — about 15 per episode, Wannop said.
Pat Wannop, Kimberly’s mother, said she’s proud of her daughter for her Emmy award and nominations.
“It’s such a great accomplishment. She’s always been such a hard worker, so we’re glad she’s finally getting the recognition,” said Pat Wannop, of Northfield.
With the “Veep” series set to wrap next season, Wannop said she’s lucky to have had the experience decorating one of HBO’s most successful comedies. She also credits her show’s set scouts and designers for the show’s success.
“You learn a lot about other countries and you get to look at voting booths, and we had to build all this from scratch. It’s a huge team effort between the production design team, set directing and the locations department,” Wannop said.
For now, Wannop will enjoy her new award at her Los Angeles home.
“It’s absolutely thrilling. It’s definitely a dream come true and it’s been awesome. It was a lot of work from me and my crew and I guess it paid off,” she said.