Making the Scene


Designing sets for the series Poker Face is a great creative challenge for Nick Nocera ’07—and that’s no lie

Last winter, fans of whodunnits devoured the new Peacock series Poker Face, created by director Rian Johnson (Knives Out) and starring Natasha Lyonne of Orange Is the New Black fame. Lyonne’s character, Charlie Cale, has an uncanny ability to tell if people are lying, enabling her to suss out the culprit in each episode. She’s also on the lam, so each episode is shot in a different location with all new characters.

For Nick Nocera ’07, who is part of the show’s set-design and
art-direction team, this makes for a unique and creative challenge. “On a normal show, you have one or two big sets that you use for the whole season—think of a classic show where most of the action takes place in a police precinct or a bar, for example,” he says. “But for this show, we build a different set for each episode.”

For season one, Nocera and team created sets as varied as a roadside Texas BBQ, a retirement home, a dinner theater in the Finger Lakes, a punk-rock club, and a go-kart complex. The process for each episode begins with studying the script, researching what the environment for the characters might be, then bringing it to life. “Episode five, for example, is about two 1960s militant hippie protesters who are now in a rest home, so we have to imagine what Irene and Joyce would surround themselves with—décor, furniture, playlists, and all that. It’s totally different every time.” Nocera’s favorite episode so far? “Definitely episode eight,” he laughs. “But I can’t tell you anything about it yet.”

Nocera, whose love of set design was first sparked back in eighth grade doing tech theater at Williston, has created sets for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, the HBO
miniseries I Know This Much is True, and the sci-fi movie The Adam Project (read a previous Bulletin story about him on

Currently based in Auckland, New Zealand, he has been returning stateside for a few months at a time during filming projects. Now that he and wife, Ellie, are the parents of two-month-old Rosalie, though, they are working on their own change of scenery: moving to a 10-acre farm in the Catskills. Conveniently, that’s not far from Newburgh, New York—filming home base for Poker Face—where shooting for season two begins soon.