Ava DuVernay’s movie adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time not only updates the 1962 young adult novel with a multiracial cast, but also sets the film in South Central Los Angeles. Like the book, the film follows 13-year-old Meg Murry (Storm Reid) as three fairylike Mrses—Mrs. Who (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling)—help her search for her father, Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine), an astrophysicist who mysteriously disappeared from his home lab after discovering a method of space travel that allows him to travel 91 billion light years in the blink of an eye. But unlike in the book, the nearly-200-year-old farmhouse in Connecticut the Murrys call home wasn’t going to cut it for DuVernay’s modern adaptation.
Finding the perfect house for the Murrys took some time. “When I first met Ava, I showed her a picture of a house in Detroit,” the film’s production designer, Naomi Shohan, tells Architectural Digest. “It was just a stand-alone house. We were talking about urban blight and urban redevelopment and people moving into neighborhoods that had been blighted but were now having some hope.”
After looking at about 50 homes in Los Angeles, Shohan says, they finally settled on an American Craftsman style home in West Adams, a historic neighborhood of Victorian mansions and Craftsmans from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The home had seen its share of both good and bad times—but that was exactly the type of semblance they were seeking.
“The house had a really good flow, and the woodwork is this beautiful golden color which we didn’t find anywhere else,” Shohan says. “We painted the interior yellow because it was originally a kind of cold yellow and we made it warmer. Architecturally, the only thing we did inside of the house was add some beams in the living room, but that was only so that the electricians could hide their cables.”
They converted the semiattached garage into Dr. Murry’s lab. “It was practically falling down and completely packed with stuff,” Shohan says. “So we emptied it out and added windows and new doors.”
Shohan and her set decorator, Elizabeth Keenan, consulted with scientist Rohit Bhartia of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on the look of the lab. “We wanted to get real equipment and make sure that it was totally realistic,” Shohan explains.
All three Mrses appear together in the movie for the first time in the Murrys’ backyard to guide Meg on an intergalactic search for her father. The backyard had to be re-created on an empty lot in Santa Clarita, California, because the production’s lighting equipment was too big to use at the West Adams house. The space was given an enchanted look with birdhouses and orbs of various sizes hanging from the trees. “We made the backyard bigger and prettier than at the house,” Shohan says.
The other prominent home in the movie belongs to Mrs. Who. Her house is actually a rundown bungalow about a mile away from the Murrys’ Craftsman, located in the same West Adams area. The small interior was filled with stacks of books because Mrs. Who only uses famous quotations when she speaks. The custom wallpaper features a print of the flowers found on the fictional planet Uriel.
“It’s a really diverse neighborhood of beautiful bungalows and that’s where her house was,” Shohan says. “The house was owned by a guy who hadn’t really started fixing it up yet. It’s a neighborhood that’s coming up again.”