To travel back in time convincingly, for the sake of a television show, every single detail must be right.
The costumes, cars, lingo and props have to pass the smell test, lest an expert or someone who lived through that time period is ready to catch a mistake.
In “Lady in the Lake,” a new Apple TV+ series starring Lupita Nyong’o and Natalie Portman, the setting is Baltimore, Maryland, in a span of time between 1966 and 1969. Based on a 2019 novel by Laura Lippman, the show centers on a housewife who decided to upend her life and investigate murders as a crime reporter. To recreate an era from more than a half-century ago, film designers and set dressers have to not only get creative, but occasionally travel a distance to retrieve the right items.
That’s how, some 80 miles from Baltimore, Lancaster city resident Carol Ann Parish was able to come to the rescue.
“It’s perfect timing, kismet, whatever you want to call it,” Parish says by phone during a recent interview.
In late March, Parish, a Lancaster city resident, was in the process of purchasing a city residence in the hopes of refurbishing it. After checking in with a few “Buy/Sell” Facebook Marketplace groups, Parish was alerted to the presence of a residence on New Holland Avenue with several large, midcentury modern items that needed excavation.
Among the spoils were two seemingly untouched items; a 1958 Frigidaire Electric Range oven, and a 1961 Frigidaire electric refrigerator. After quickly procuring a U-Haul, Parish paid the owner the agreed-upon $100 ($50 for each item) and put the items in temporary storage.
“I’m not a purist. I’m more of an eclectic, bohemian ‘Whatever piece comes to me, I add it to the decor’ type,” Parish says, explaining her personal style.
A few days later, Parish posted the two items on one of the many Lancaster “Buy/Sell” Facebook Marketplace pages (“Really the only reason I still use Facebook,” Parish says). Within two days, she was in contact with Lisa Dietrich, a 25-year veteran of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 487, a Baltimore union. Dietrich’s knowledge of Baltimore has led to steady work over the years, whether it is for projects set in Baltimore like the Netflix series “House of Cards” or set dressing for other productions, such as “Lars and the Real Girl” and “The Incredible Hulk.”
Dietrich made the drive from the Baltimore region, connecting with Parish and quickly approving of the items for production. Parish says that, for production purposes, the fridge will be repainted to another midcentury modern-era-approved color, but the range oven will stay virtually untouched. Parish says that the production paid her $500 for the items.
In April, a large moving truck came by to scoop up the two items, along with a few other pieces that Dietrich sought out in nearby counties. Jesse Speicher, owner of downtown Lancaster city antique shop Space, provided a 1950s-era Philco television to the set, as well.
Dietrich was not able to provide a comment for this story by press time.
While the allure of assisting an Apple TV+ production is exciting enough (Parish is a fan of recent Apple TV+ productions “Severance” and “The Morning Show”), Parish says that her main hope for the pieces is that they can continue to live on and be appreciated.
“That’s the goal, I’d like to keep pieces like these out of a landfill as much as possible,” says Parish.
Production on “Lady in the Lake” began in the last few weeks, and Parish says that she has an open invitation to check out the shooting of the series, which was recently in Pikesville, Maryland.
“Ultimately, the best part of this whole experience is meeting new acquaintances, who may well be future friends,” says Parish of meeting Dietrich and the movers for the production.
And yes, Parish will be keeping an eye peeled while watching episodes of “Lady in the Lake” to spot her vintage finds. After all, this isn’t the first time that Parish and a vintage item of hers showed up in a major production, later to await the perfect “pause” moment to confirm its placement.
Back in 1999, Parish and her red 1964 Chevrolet Corvair made blink-and-you-miss-it appearances as extras in “Girl, Interrupted,” which shot several scenes in Lancaster city.
“My friend at the time had one of the first DVD players, and we had this little gathering just to pause at that moment,” Parish says with a laugh. “The whole process has always been intriguing to me.”