How ‘Evil’ Recreated the 21 Grams Science Experiment From the Early 1900s

The third season of Paramount+ series “Evil” returned on June 12, and the show is darker than ever as it continues to straddle the worlds of science and religion.

For the season opener, production designer Ray Kluga transformed an airport hangar in New York into a space for a group of scientists to experiment on dead bodies. The idea was to measure the weight of a soul, a question that goes back to the early 20th century when scientist Duncan MacDougall determined the weight lost after death was 21 grams.

Kluga’s biggest challenge was in envisioning what a century-old experiment in the modern world would look like. The ethically questionable measurement was never repeated, so he was free to let his imagination run. “I was trying to have a vintage sci-fi design, particularly with the casketlike box that sits in the middle of the room,” he says.

The area was painted stark white, reflective of a cold scientific space. Pops of red and yellow were added to some piping on the walls. The main color would come from the red jackets worn by the scientists and observers.

Kluga laid sensors strategically on the floor that are lit up in red when the group of scientists has a body to work on. “Those were done with the help of CGI,” he explains. “We laid out four to five rows and the rest were duplicated by CGI.”

The control room swings into action when a patient on the verge of dying is brought in.  Newly ordained priest David (Mike Colter), forensic psychologist Kristen (Katja Herbers) and David’s adviser Ben (Aasif Mandvi) are all on hand to witness this experiment.

The control room was built on another stage and was pasted in via VFX. “We wanted a mad-scientist feel to the room,” Kluga says.

The designer adds that because series creator Robert King enjoys working in tiny spaces, the experimentation room needed to conform to those specifications. “It was very small and tight,” he says. “Just when I thought I had made it small enough, the walls came in another two feet — everyone was cheek to jowl.”

Kluga promises scientific spaces come into play a lot more this season as the storylines evolve. “Without giving too much away,” he says, “there’s a science club that I built that’s a wacky, hipster version of science.”

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