When it comes to crafting a fantasy land or a historical setting, the costuming and set design can make or break a story’s believability. For a large majority of viewers, the visuals play just as vital of a role as solid storylines and compelling characters to bring a universe into focus. Costumes inform us about a character’s personality as well as their social and economic status. Set design brings the narratives and overall world to life. If you want to be successful, it has to look and feel real. Prime Video’s My Lady Jane certainly nails both of these aspects, which Nerdist got to experience first-hand during a set visit at Iris Studios in London, UK. 

MY LADY JANE: Exploring the Tudor-Era Fantasy Series' Lush Sets and Elaborate Costumes_1
Prime Video

My Lady Jane is a satirical dramedy that reimagines the life of Lady Jane Grey. She was the Queen of England for only nine days before the crown was taken away. In real life, she met her death via beheading in 1554. But, in My Lady Jane, she does become the Queen and has to deal with the schemes, jealousy, and other aspects of wielding power as a woman. This world sets up a class systems of veritans, people who cannot shapeshift into animals, and ethians, those who can shapeshift into animals. (For more on this show’s premise and characters, head to our complete explainer.) 

Considering its time period and fantasy elements, My Lady Jane’s crew had to make sure that the aesthetic details were on point. Upon our arrival, My Lady Jane was actively filming an elaborate coronation scene. Between takes, we were able to traverse the scene, taking in its intricate gold leaf detailing and decor. From an elaborate wine fountain to a massive dolphin head and ornate candelabras, I felt as though I’d stepped out of a time machine (the TARDIS, specifically) and into a completely different time.

My Lady Jane’s production designer Will Hughes-Jones, who also worked on Bridgerton, and set decorator Gina Cromwell, whose work has appeared on Downtown Abbey, were our guides. They led us through entire village sets, lofty towers, jail cells, a honeymoon suite, and more that comprise the show’s Tudor-era setting. The pair gave us a tour to three stages in one area of the studio and a larger warehouse on the other side, which was close to the show’s costume area. (More on the latter later!) 3D printing of buildings was actively happening as they broke down their process of drafting, model making, and physically constructing set pieces. 

Tai Gooden

We weren’t able to photograph much of the set to keep things under close wraps. However, we were able to take photos at the Swan Tavern, which Hughes-Jones said would double over as a barn and another tavern in the show. Recycling and reusing props are a major part of saving both time and money. It also helps with maintaining some consistency for the show’s overall design. “We had a lot of conversations with the showrunners and directors about how we can change things up to utilize them to the best of the economy that we can,” he affirmed. 

Once the set pieces are made, it is up to Gina to dress them and bring them to life. We see that shine through in several sitting areas and bedrooms, specifically through 28 tapestries. They are handmade and also contain detailing that tells a story about the characters. And, if you’re thinking that it is a typical set where there is no ceiling, think again. “We do ceilings because personally I think it’s important to put a ceiling on a set,” says Hughes-Jones. “It makes it feel real… I speak with the DP a lot and we work out how we can light through them.” 

One of the most intriguing rooms we witnessed was Jane’s room, which was filled with dried herbs and flowers. It truly gave us insight into her personality. “Jane is a bit of a herbalist,” Cromwell confirms. “She likes medicine and is a scientist, really, for this period. To hammer that home, there are a lot of herbs hanging up. There’s weird frogs and experimental things she would have had, like a still for making oils and distilling medicines. Also books…she’s brainy. In order to tell the story, we put them in so it helps the character evolve.” 

She affirms that they made many things themselves, considering My Lady Jane takes place hundreds of years ago. Cromwell and her team scoured antique stores that they would bring in and paint or reconstruct to fit their needs and accommodate space for crew and cameras. In terms of furniture, Cromwell wanted pieces with lots of and engraving carving on them. “A lot of the show is set at night,” she reveals. “So from our point of view, we are trying to see how the set will look in the dark. There’s a lot of candlelight and we need to reflect it off something.” 

Much of the overall set design draws inspiration from Will and Gina’s upbringings. “The whole Tudor period is a big project in primary school,” Cromwell said. “So you go to the castles and courts and it is kind of ingrained in us. Now we go back and look at those same things much closer. We get lots of books and look at all the art and tapestries from the time.”

“Part of the process when we are shooting on location and in the studio, I will go and look at ten castles or ten houses and choose one that works for the story,” Hughes-Jones chimes in. “Gina will come along. In the process, we will walk around and find interesting things to see. You’ll go through and say “oh, this room doesn’t work but I love that interesting little bit of paneling in the corner there” or “that window shape is really nice.” Both Gina and I have photo albums of thousands of random things. I spent a lot of time looking at floorboards because, during this period, not everywhere had flooring. There was dirt.” 

While we weren’t at location shooting, the set pieces along with actors scurrying about in their costumes was a wondrous sight. Speaking of costumes, a period drama absolutely has to bring its A++ game in that arena. That’s where costume designer Stephanie Collie (Peaky Blinders) comes into play. Witnessing her work onscreen and in photos is a joy but seeing it up close and personal is mind-blowing.

She takes us through a large room with rows and rows of costumes for nearly every major character. Some of them are duplicates to get through filming challenges. While it can be difficult to find materials when other Tudor-era series costume designers are also on the hunt, Collie traveled to make it happen. “We got stock from Italy, France, and from Spain,” Collie said. “You always need to have a basic kind of stock because sadly you just don’t have time to make everything, as much as you’d love to… I think the art department did amazing stuff with so much gold and we just hopefully added to that with the costumes.” 

Tai Gooden

Collie leaned into the character’s personalities and the reality of their circumstances to craft their wardrobes. “We’ve worked really hard to give everyone an arc in their story,” she said. “Jane [and her family] start off very poor to begin with and they don’t have much money. But Lady Frances (Jane’s mother) is trying to put on a wealthy front, but her dresses are probably from 10 years ago. Then when she gets to the palace, suddenly she’s got all these riches, all the jewels, and all the fabrics, so we made her clothing elaborate for that… I think of them as clothes, not costumes, and that the characters should try and wear them in a way that is believable.”

She jokes that Jane’s husband Guilford is, as he previously told us, a Tudor rockstar who wears lots of leather. Meanwhile, it made sense to keep Jane in simpler fabrics like linens and cotton at first. Then, she began to wear silks and beaded fabrics once she gets to the palace. Many things were sewn by hand, including the pearls on Jane’s wedding dress, which Collie jokingly says was not a fun experience for her team. Their hard work certainly meshes together to create some killer looks. 

My Lady Jane has the look and feel of both Tudor-era and fantasy. And, when the series hits Prime Video on June 27, fans will get to see everything onscreen and in motion. Get ready to watch Jane fight to keep her crown in the midst of a brewing conflict.