Exclusive Interview: Rogue’s Prop Team on Creating Rogue One Object at a Time

May 6, 2013

Who decides who shoots what gun? Prop Master Jim LeBlanc and Prop Buyer Gillian Goodman do. They know the ins and outs of the characters and the kind of objects that speak to their personalities. Rogue insider Ira Parker caught up with LeBlanc and Gillian to learn more about the prop selecting process.

Ira Parker: How does the level of detail on Rogue compare to other projects you’ve worked on? Is this a prop heavy show?
Jim LeBlanc: Yes. Because we’re chronological– every episode we’re moving steps ahead as opposed to a new story every week, so it’s important to pay attention to details, as a prop in episode 102 might come back in 108.

IP: How do you keep everything straight?
[Prop Master Jim LeBlanc points to Prop Buyer Gillian Goodman.]
JL: She’s got it all in her head. She’s done great paper work.
Gillian Goodman: Matthew [Parkhill, show creator] sees me and he runs. Ha ha.

IP: I remember that list of questions you sent us. It was massive. It was so detailed, but Matthew loves it. He loves that someone cared that much to ask all those questions.
GG: He said he hasn’t felt like that since high school. Like it was an exam. It was pretty funny actually.

IP: What kind of research did you do to get ready for the show?
JL: We researched police forces and paramedics and mobsters and gangsters. We actually don’t do a lot of research until we’ve read a couple of scripts.

IP: And where is that research conducted? It’s not as if you could just walk down to the docks and hang out with mobsters.
JL: We look at movies and we google. We ended up going with the ‘70s look for Jimmy’s crew. And it works. It works well.

IP: Do you keep the props ’70s style appropriate?
JL: For the most part. I’d say about 60%. Some of their watches and the style of bottle and decanters.

IP: What kinds of weapons did you use on set?
GG: Mainly we used handguns. Near the end we were using some bigger stuff, but basically each weapon was tailored to fit the different characters based on what type of person they were and what job they had. More of our gangster types have a larger handgun, and our directors weighed in whether they wanted it to be glinty or subtle. With Thandie, we had issues because she’s so little. You couldn’t give her too large of a gun. That became an issue. We also tried to keep some consistency with what she really would have, being an undercover cop. So we went with a Colt MK4 and a 380 caliber, which is more of a back-up hand gun for most officers. Most officers tend to stay with a nine mill or larger. But the Colt can still kill you. No doubt about it.

IP: Were any of the weapons live-firing? Or were they plastic replicas?
GG: They were blank firing. They are real guns and they put the structures into the barrels of them so they are re-programmed to fire blanks.

IP: What were some of the hardest props to find on the show?
JL: We’re so good at our job we didn’t have any troubles. Ha ha. I’m just kidding. But there weren’t any real difficulties. The show is pretty rooted in reality. Not an alien planet or anything. Just have to do a little bit of research to get character pieces.

IP: What is the most unusual prop you’ve ever been asked to find?
GG: I worked on a film where I was asked to figure out how we could tell that the guy pulled out of the lake was eaten by a crocodile. I found this man from Vancouver who actually invented the technology on how to take a bite mark out of skin and match it to the teeth. And through conversations with him, we were able to produce a convincing model. I once had to recreate letters from Manzanar, which is where the Japanese were interned during WWII. That was tough – just figuring out how they would have been addressed, etcetera. I’ve had to create dynamite and the period boxes that went along. And I remember having to find lighthouse reports, which is very difficult. I had to go down to Seattle, chat up the guys down in the lighthouse museum, and basically talk them into letting me rummage through their basement.

IP: How much detail goes into all the police documents we see?
GG: I try to be accurate. Try to deal with the story points and put as much reality in as I can. But you always have to take a little bit of liberation in the creation of these documents, if only because that’s the way movie and television works. A ballistics report, DNA, or an autopsy can take a week, but in the show, we get all those results in four hours. So the timeline is always a little adjusted. When they were looking at the prison records, for example, we only had 15 cleared names. So it was important to visually sell the document, but at the same time you have to take your restrictions into consideration.

IP: How did props get stuck handling the producers’ chairs on set?
JL: It should be the assistant directors or locations.
GG: Ha ha.
JL: I have no idea.
GG: They don’t do that everywhere. Vancouver does.
JL: Although, there’re actually a couple shows in Vancouver where the locations people are moving the chairs. Believe it or not.
GG: But as it goes, we do service those people directly. We do work with producers, so I guess it makes sense to a certain extent.
JL: But I’d be happy to get rid of them. Ha ha.