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Chucky's Season 3 White House Setting Is "More The Shining Than The West Wing"
"Like any great haunted house, there’s a barrier for entry. But, also, once you’re inside, you really can’t leave.”
Don’t let Chucky's presence in the Oval Office fool you: The killer doll is not making a stab at a political career (though he might literally stab a politician). Season 3 of the hit SYFY and USA Network series takes place largely in The White House, as Chucky has somehow become the favorite toy of the new president’s young son. But, despite the setting, the new season is less about the House of Representatives than it is about haunted houses — and one iconic haunted locale in particular was a major inspiration.
As executive producer Alex Hedlund explained to SYFY WIRE ahead of the October 4 season premiere, Chucky creator Don Mancini had been thinking about where to take Chucky next and was interested in the ghost stories and legends involving the White House.
“He always felt it was kind of the ultimate haunted house,” Hedlund said. “It’s this creaky old house that we all sort of look at as this beacon of authority and this symbol. But it’s still a house, so many families have lived there and there’s so much history. And, like any great haunted house, there’s a barrier for entry. But, also, once you’re inside, you really can’t leave.”
While many viewers thought, understandably, that Season 3 would be political due to the setting, Hedlund says that’s “the farthest thing from the truth.” (The president, played by Devon Sawa in the actor’s fourth role in three seasons of Chucky, rides a line that makes it easy for the series to “skirt the potential criticism” or “the suggestion that we’re trying to lampoon a public figure.")
“Don’s really looking at the White House more like it’s the Overlook Hotel,” Hedlund said. “It’s this unsettling chamber piece where it’s an impenetrable fortress. Ideally, it feels a little bit more like The Shining than it would The West Wing.”
The influence of Stephen King’s iconic haunted hotel, famously brought to eerie life in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation, was built into Chucky’s take on the White House — literally. John Dondertman, the production designer for the series, told SYFY WIRE that he and his team envisioned the White House set they were building as “our version of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining.”
“You’re not going to watch this Chucky season and go ‘Oh, that’s the Overlook,’” Dondertman said of Chucky’s take on the White House. “It’s more about the scale. The Overlook has this massive reception area where a lot of things take place, but then it has these isolated but fairly cinematically designed rooms.”
Dondertman said the connection to The Shining gave the Chucky team something “existential” they could latch on to. He’s worked on a few different projects where he’s had to recreate the White House in the past, but Chucky’s was the most elaborate, and Dondertman and his team had to strike a balance between making their recreation of this well-known location accurate and making it cinematic. (“The other thing about the White House is that it is actually very white inside, which is not always super friendly for cinematography or the look we were after,” he admitted.)
Dondertman said blocking and cinematography go a long way in making the White House’s lofty halls serve as the spooky setting of a killer doll’s latest spree, but having the Overlook Hotel in the crew’s mind as an inspiration certainly helps. If only the real White House had a hedge maze.
Chucky Season 3 begins on SYFY and USA Network on Oct. 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, streaming the next day on Peacock, followed by new episodes of SurrealEstate at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SYFY.