In the Dark: Interview with production designer Naz Goshtasbpour

In the Dark - Headshot of Naz Goshtasbpour - Photo Courtesy of Impact24 PR
In the Dark - Headshot of Naz Goshtasbpour - Photo Courtesy of Impact24 PR /

The CW’s newest drama series, In the Dark, follows a blind woman on the hunt for her friend’s killer. We chatted with series production designer, Naz Goshtasbpour.

If you haven’t tuned into The CW’s new drama series, In the Dark, you’re missing out. The series is atypical for the network due to its mature themes and dark tone. But it is almost like a kindred spirit to The CW’s former drama, Veronica Mars.

The main character is a toxic, self-destructive woman named Murphy who also happens to be blind. Murphy stumbles upon what she believes is the dead body of her friend, Tyson, but when the cops arrive there is no body to be found and Murphy is left alone to try and solve the mystery of his death.

Naz Goshtasbpour, the series production designer, chatted with Hidden Remote about the creative process and research that went into making the sets for blind characters and actors on the show.

Hidden Remote: Would you like to tell us a bit about your experience working on In the Dark?

Naz Goshtasbpour: In the Dark was the most wonderful experience of my career so far. Everybody was just so wonderful to work with. So in that aspect, it was heaven. Creatively it was also wonderful because of the subject matter. The main character being blind provided an opportunity for design I hadn’t done before, in creating a set for blind people, and I was so fortunate to be a part of it.

In the Dark
In the Dark – Naz Goshtasbpour – Photo Courtesy of Impact24 PR /

HR: Breaking Blind [the guide dog school run by Murphy’s parents] is one of the focal points of the show. Can you talk about the research you did to work on that particular set?

NG: It was based on a lot of real world examples. We had a consultant from Guide Dogs of America who I talked to in detail with regards to the kind of posters and signage they would have in the training school.

We also had someone from Toronto’s CNIB foundation. I got to talk to him about the challenges of being blind. For example, braille, there’s not just one type. There are two different kinds of braille. One is for people born blind or who become blind at an early age and the other is for people who become blind later in life. There’s level one and level two.

I also did a lot of research on my own. I read articles and books on designing for blind people and found out what I should keep in mind on how they operate on a day to day basis. I watched a lot of interviews, and I came across a TED talk of an architect who went blind in his adult life and he talked about how he started to build spaces for blind people.

In addition to all of that, we scouted a lot of guide dog training schools. I photographed every location in depth and the ones I couldn’t go to, my art director would, and photograph it all. Then we would go through them and study the space and what marks they have for blind people to detect where certain things are and we also learned about how guide dogs operate.

In the Dark
In The Dark — Pictured (L-R): Brooke Markham as Jess and Perry Mattfeld as Murphy — Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

HR: Do you want to talk about how you designed Murphy’s bedroom? I noticed it was a little minimalist.

NG: The sparseness of the bedroom was definitely intentional. When I read the script and saw this was a character who has self-destructive habits, I thought, well, if she really doesn’t care about her own body then she definitely doesn’t care about putting up pictures. The extent of her furniture is a mattress on the ground she sleeps on. Sometimes the sheets are even off the bed so she sleeps on the plain mattress. With blind people, it’s all about habits and placement. I proposed that whatever is in her bedroom has not been moved since she moved in.

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Another thing I suggested was to find a location that has large windows because I didn’t want to put any practical lighting in her bedroom. I wanted the main source of light to be coming from the window and even at night it would be car lights, street lights, or the ambulance going by and that would light her room. And because she’s blind, there is a lot of touching and feeling of surfaces so we focused on putting different textures and set dressing in there. If you look closely you can see that everything has a texture to it.

HR: I appreciated that. I’ve watched shows before where a character would have a bedroom that doesn’t fit their personality at all and even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal, it can take you out of the show. It’s nice that on In the Dark, Murphy’s bedroom fits who she is.

NG: Another thing we did, if you notice the colors, there are a lot of monochromatic grey tones which also represent her not being able to see anything versus the rest of her apartment, that was decorated by her roommate, which is more colorful and vibrant with pictures on the walls.

HR: You’ve worked on projects from several different genres. Do you have a certain approach you take if you’re working on a horror versus a drama?

NG: It’s mainly about the script and how I visualize the set. Another aspect is what the director likes and how they’re envisioning the set. But the one thing I keep consistent on all my work is I try to be as true to real life as possible. With everything, I do tons of research to make sure whatever I provide is as realistic as it can be because I never want my design to stand out in a way that makes the audience think it looks funny.

In the Dark
In the Dark – Naz Goshtasbpour – Image Courtesy of Impact24 PR /

HR: Do you have any inspirations that you draw from? Any artists or anything that inspires you?

NG: I take a lot of inspiration from the old Danish paintings, like Vilhelm Hammershøi’s, because his paintings are interiors and they’re usually very plain with natural lighting. Even though our show isn’t set in the 19th century – but it has that realistic quality.

HR: I feel like if I was a production designer I would always be noticing the details of sets when I watch television and films. 

NG: As a general rule I watch a lot of TV and movies. You never know when you’ll get inspiration so I don’t discriminate on good or bad TV or movies. With TV shows I really liked the earlier seasons of House of Cards and the look of it.

David Fincher and his designer, who did Gone Girl as well, I love his work because it’s so elegant, nice, and clean. It’s just so beautiful. And I like Better Call Saul because it’s a very normal, bland and ugly-looking environment – ugly in a good way. I like those, and Breaking Bad too. A lot of my inspirations came from Breaking Bad, as well as Better Call Saul, because they have a realistic style about them that’s believable.

When I found out who the producers were on our show, I watched all the shows they had worked on before. One of the executive producers had worked on a few shows that were multiple seasons with each season having 22 episodes and I was just like “I’m in heaven!” – binge watching for a week.

When it comes to more mainstream network shows, like shows on ABC or NBC, I really like to watch the pilot and see how the sets progress because you can see each season how they get more money – or less money – and how the sets look different. I like to see progress from the pilot and what changed or what didn’t change.

HR: It’s always fun to watch a show evolve and see how everything grows and changes as it progresses. On In the Dark did you design every set or just certain ones?

NG: I designed all of them. I was on it from the pilot to the very last day of the first season shoot.

HR: Is there any specific set that we haven’t seen yet that you really enjoyed working on you might be able to tease?

NG: Yes, but I feel like if I answer it I might spoil something and I don’t want to ruin it!

HR: I understand. Well, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the rest of the season and thank you so much for chatting with me!

NG: You too, thanks for letting me talk about my work on the show!

Next. 3 reasons you need to watch The CW's In the Dark. dark

Apart from In the Dark, Naz has also worked on several short films in addition to horror movies like 2018’s Our House.

Recently, she worked as production designer on the Eva Longoria pilot, Glamorous, one of several pilots in contention to be picked up to series this upcoming fall on The CW. You can check out more of Naz’s work on her website.