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The Best Supporting Objects on TV’s Best Shows

Apr 01, 2024Apr 01, 2024

By Anthony Breznican and Katey Rich

There’s no Emmy for best supporting object, but some props are so essential they deserve one. Take the inky black cello owned by the title character of Netflix’s Wednesday (1), which allows Jenna Ortega’s stoic heroine to reveal her inner turmoil. “We wanted to find something that could express her emotional side, because she’s not somebody who’s going to express that,” says co-showrunner Alfred Gough. Mark Scruton, Wednesday’s production designer, says he offered several options to director Tim Burton, who chose an antique wooden one, reflecting the character’s affection for old, battered things. “In the end,” Scruton says, “her character became this slightly eclectic mix of traditional and new.” “Eclectic” would be a very gentle way to describe the workshop occupied by the reclusive filmmaker, named Arthur, that Nick Nolte plays in Peacock’s Poker Face (2). Visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett created Arthur’s spectacular puppets, including a Zeus head—with Athena bursting out of it—that turns out to be a metaphor for Arthur’s tortured past. “I just became obsessed with that as a sort of template for what [he] was going through,” says star Natasha Lyonne, who also directed the episode. “He’s stuck between two worlds of the past and the present and trying to exist despite it all.”

A Small Light (3) showrunner Joan Rater dove deep into the past to find the inspiration for the necklace at the center of the Nat Geo limited series’ fourth episode, in which Bel Powley’s Miep Gies—hiding Anne Frank in the legendary Amsterdam annex—receives an unexpected gift from an old friend. Inspired by necklaces worn by Jews who were persecuted during the Spanish Inquisition, the necklace that appears to be bejeweled butterflies folds up to form a Star of David. “It was a little rebellion,” says Rater. Like Wednesday’s, Showtime’s Yellowjackets (4) antihero Shauna can only express her true feelings in private, in this case via the journals that the adult Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) burns at the beginning of season two, “with relatively little hand-wringing or drama,” notes co-showrunner Jonathan Lisco. But in true Yellowjackets fashion, there’s almost certainly more to be revealed. “Has she come to a true inflection point in her life where she is willing (for better or worse) to let the past go?” he teases. “Or is there something else going on that we have yet to find out?”

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