The third time was the charm for interior design alumna Kimberly Wannop ’99, who won an Emmy Award earlier this month as set decorator for the hit HBO comedy series “Veep.”
“I was just so happy and excited to have won,” said Wannop, who had been nominated twice before for the TV industry’s top honor. When her name was announced at the Sept. 10 ceremony, she said, “I might have screamed ‘Yes!’ a little too loud,” before heading onstage to pick up her statue—and a glass of champagne on the way back to her seat.
“Winning an Emmy has been a goal I set for myself a long time ago, so this achievement is very meaningful to me,” she said. “I feel overwhelmed by people reaching out since I won and saying how much they like my work and the look of the show, so that has been humbling.”
Shortly after earning her degree in interior design from Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University), Wannop headed to Hollywood to start her career. “I’ve always been into TV and film sets,” she said. “I don’t think I believed in college that I would ever be able to make a career out of it, but the interest was definitely there.”
The talent was also there, as it didn’t take long for her to start finding work, first in art departments, then moving into TV movies and series. From 2006-2011, she worked on the Fox series “Bones,” and her credits include work on other top shows such as “Parks and Recreation,” “Love” and “The Good Place.”
“I definitely credit my interior design education with helping and influencing my career,” Wannop said. “I learned to draft and use CAD, which helped me get art department jobs early on, and even now I use space planning, fabric and textiles almost every day. I am very grateful to my parents who provided this education for me and very proud that Philadelphia University educated me to succeed in this career.”
“We are incredibly proud of Kim,” said Lauren Baumbach, associate professor and director of Jefferson’s interior design and interior architecture programs. “She was an adventurous design student with a lot of spunk. As a young designer, she took off for Los Angeles with dreams of being a set designer and that risk paid off big. We celebrate her talent and incredible accomplishments.”
Although working in the TV industry sounds glamourous, the pace can be grueling during production. “I started ‘Veep’ when the show moved to Los Angeles for its fifth season,” Wannop said. “It’s a challenging show to decorate because we have so many sets per episode and so little time to prep them. Our episodes shoot for six days, and we prep them for five, but while we are prepping episode five, we are also shooting episode four, so the schedule becomes very hectic.”
And while there are some permanent sets, such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character Selina Meyer’s brownstone and office (and previously the White House for the fictional former president and vice president), there could be as many as 22 other sets in one episode, Wannop said.
She does get to sit in when the cast rehearses on a new set, just in case any modifications need to be made. “And, yes, it’s usually pretty funny,” Wannop said, “and fun to watch the actors use the set in the scene.”