Replicating the world and environments for the students and faculty of Wiley College became a project of restoration and weeks of location scouting. It took several villages, miles of highway, a cypress swamp and the gracious welcome from Harvard University to put the pieces together. We restored two residential blocks and the downtown square in the town of Mansfield, La., for the cornerstone elements of Marshall, Texas. Sixty miles to the north, we relocated a sharecropper shack and also built a juke joint on Caddo Lake. A trip to Boston had us masking modern elements in Memorial Hall and the Wang Center for the Performing Arts and augmenting with period furniture, drapery, lighting and signage.
The ultimate challenge was to support the themes of the screenplay and the players' emotions. And when a question arose about content, the words of director Denzel Washington (and Mies van der Rohe) rang clear: "Less is more."