Leo Yoshimura

Production Designer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his 75-minute interview, Leo Yoshimura talks about his early life, his first production design jobs in college, and attending the Yale School of Drama. He speaks of his production design work in the theater, and being hired by Saturday Night Live. He details his long career at SNL, including working with creator Lorne Michaels, designing the early home base set, and a typical work week on the show. He recalls playing “Sulu” in several Star Trek sketches over the years, which leads to a discussion of the lack of representation of Japanese people on television. He concludes with giving advice to aspiring production designers, and discussing how he’d like to be remembered. Jenni Matz conducted the interview on May 17, 2017 in New York, NY.

In their two-hour, joint interview the Saturday Night Live Production Design Team, including Eugene Lee, Keith Raywood, Leo Yoshimura, and Joe DeTullio, talk about how each of them came to join the staff of Saturday Night Live. They recall designing the various “home base” sets for the show over the year, and consulting with executive producer Lorne Michaels for his input. The describe how the collaborate with each other, and with other departments on the show. They describe working with the various directors of the show, and on the unique challenges of doing production design for a live broadcast. They chronicle some of their favorite sets and most memorable moments, and working with the musical guests. Finally, they opine on why Saturday Night Live has endured, and speculate on how much longer they might stay with the show. Jenni Matz conducted the interview on May 17, 2017 in New York, NY.

"Being a production designer on Saturday Night Live is creatively satisfying, and I’m addicted to it. The adrenaline addiction is really the hardest addiction to get over. I was thinking about if I leave here, what am I going to do with my time? It’s very hard to kind of think of me sitting around not doing this."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Leo Yoshimura on a typical work week for him on Saturday Night Live
Leo Yoshimura on being hired as a production designer on Saturday Night Live alongside Eugene Lee
Leo Yoshimura on playing "Sulu" in several Star Trek parodies on Saturday Night Live over the years, and on lack of representation of Japanese people on television
Leo Yoshimura on production designing the first cold open on Saturday Night Live, "The Wolverines," and on dealing with budgets
Leo Yoshimura on some of his biggest challenges as a production designer on Saturday Night Live
Leo Yoshimura on advice to aspiring production designers
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his interest in art as a child; on his early production design jobs in college and for Second City
On his various mentors at the Yale School of Drama; on making the transition from doing production design for theater to doing production design for television, and on finding work early in his career; on being hired as a production designer on Saturday Night Live alongside Eugene Lee
On working with Eugene Lee on production designing the first few episodes of Saturday Night Live, and working with the stagehands on the show; on his and Eugene Lee's early understanding with Lorne Michaels about the production design of Saturday Night Live, and on designing the early home base set; on production designing the first cold open on Saturday Night Live, "The Wolverines," and on dealing with budgets
On a typical work week for him on Saturday Night Live; on playing "Sulu" in several Star Trek parodies on Saturday Night Live over the years, and on the lack of representation of Japanese people on television; on his longevity at Saturday Night Live, and his wanting to continue to work
On some of his biggest challenges as a production designer on Saturday Night Live; on working with the crew of Saturday Night Live; on doing production design for shows other than Saturday Night Live
On his own and Eugene Lee's points of view and style of production design, and on his relationship with Lee; on how the television industry has changed since he started; on the persistent lack of representation of Asian Americans on television
On advice to aspiring production designers; on how he would like to be remembered

Chapter 2

START OF JOINT INTERVIEW WITH SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE PRODUCTION DESIGN TEAM: Eugene Lee on how he came to join Saturday Night Live, and on his early experience with the show; on designing the Saturday Night Live home base set
On Lorne Michaels' input into the Saturday Night Live home base set; on the llama running joke on Saturday Night Live; Keith Raywood and Joe DeTullio on how they joined Saturday Night Live
On how the team functions together, and on a typical workweek for the team; on what makes working on Saturday Night Live production design unique
On their process of collaborating with each other on Saturday Night Live; on reusing old sets on Saturday Night Live; on dealing with the tight time constraints of Saturday Night Live, and on their biggest challenges

Chapter 3

On working with the directors of Saturday Night Live, including Dave Wilson, Paul Miller, Beth McCarthy-Miller, and Don Roy King; on their interaction with various other departments on Saturday Night Live; on their favorite sets, and on Saturday Night Live being live
On their longevity staying with Saturday Night Live, and on dealing with crazy weeks; on dealing with last minute issues on Saturday Night Live, and on mishaps live on-air; on appearing in sketches on Saturday Night Live from time to time, and on the "Weekend Update" set
On the most fun sets to design for Saturday Night Live; on working with the musical guests on Saturday Night Live; on favorite sets they've worked on for Saturday Night Live
On continuing to work on Saturday Night Live; on the enduring popularity of Saturday Night Live, and on what keeps them working there
Shows

Saturday Night Live

View Show Page
Leo Yoshimura on being hired as a production designer on Saturday Night Live alongside Eugene Lee
Leo Yoshimura on working with Eugene Lee on production designing the first few episodes of Saturday Night Live, and working with the stagehands on the show
Leo Yoshimura on his and Eugene Lee's early understanding with Lorne Michaels about the production design of Saturday Night Live, and on designing the early home base set
Leo Yoshimura on production designing the first cold open on Saturday Night Live, "The Wolverines," and on dealing with budgets
Leo Yoshimura on a typical work week for him on Saturday Night Live
Leo Yoshimura on playing "Sulu" in several Star Trek parodies on Saturday Night Live over the years, and on lack of representation of Japanese people on television
Leo Yoshimura on his longevity at Saturday Night Live, and his wanting to continue to work
Leo Yoshimura on some of his biggest challenges as a production designer on Saturday Night Live
Leo Yoshimura on working with the crew of Saturday Night Live
Eugene Lee on how he came to join Saturday Night Live, and on his early experience with the show
SNL Production Design Team on designing the Saturday Night Live home base set
SNL Production Design Team on Lorne Michaels' input into the Saturday Night Live home base set
SNL Production Design Team on the llama running joke on Saturday Night Live
Keith Raywood on how he became involved with Saturday Night Live, and on his role within the team
Joe DeTullio on how he joined Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on how the team functions together, and on a typical workweek
SNL Production Design Team on what makes working on Saturday Night Live production design unique
SNL Production Design Team on their process of collaborating with each other on Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on reusing old sets on Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on dealing with the tight time constraints of Saturday Night Live, and on their biggest challenges
SNL Production Design Team on working with the directors of Saturday Night Live, including Dave Wilson, Paul Miller, Beth McCarthy-Miller, and Don Roy King
SNL Production Design Team on their interaction with various other departments on Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on their favorite sets, and on Saturday Night Live being live
SNL Production Design Team on their longevity staying with Saturday Night Live, and on dealing with crazy weeks
SNL Production Design Team on dealing with last minute issues on Saturday Night Live, and on mishaps live on air
SNL Production Design Team on appearing in sketches on Saturday Night Live from time to time, and on the "Weekend Update" set
SNL Production Design Team on the most fun sets to design for Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on working with the musical guests on Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on favorite sets they've worked on for Saturday Night Live, and on assessing their job after a given show
SNL Production Design Team on continuing to work on Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on the enduring popularity of Saturday Night Live, and on what keeps them working there

Star Trek

View Show Page
Leo Yoshimura on playing "Sulu" in several Star Trek parodies on Saturday Night Live over the years
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Leo Yoshimura on advice to aspiring production designers

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Leo Yoshimura on his various mentors at the Yale School of Drama

Diversity in Television

View Topic
Leo Yoshimura on the persistent lack of representation of Asian Americans on television
Leo Yoshimura on playing "Sulu" in several Star Trek parodies on Saturday Night Live over the years, and on lack of representation of Japanese people on television

Emmy Awards

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Leo Yoshimura on Emmy nominations and wins, and on his proudest career achievement

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Leo Yoshimura on the persistent lack of representation of Asian Americans on television
Leo Yoshimura on playing "Sulu" in several Star Trek parodies on Saturday Night Live over the years, and on lack of representation of Japanese people on television

Minorities

View Topic
Leo Yoshimura on the persistent lack of representation of Asian Americans on television
Leo Yoshimura on playing "Sulu" in several Star Trek parodies on Saturday Night Live over the years, and on lack of representation of Japanese people on television

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Leo Yoshimura on his various mentors at the Yale School of Drama

Television Industry

View Topic
Leo Yoshimura on how the television industry has changed since he started
Leo Yoshimura on advice to aspiring production designers
Professions

Designers

View Profession
Leo Yoshimura on making the transition from doing production design for theater to doing production design for television, and on finding work early in his career
Leo Yoshimura on his own and Eugene Lee's points of view and style of production design, and on his relationship with Lee
Leo Yoshimura on advice to aspiring production designers
SNL Production Design Team on how the team functions together, and on a typical work week for the team
SNL Production Design Team on their process of collaborating with each other on Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on their interaction with various other departments on Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on dealing with last minute issues on Saturday Night Live, and on mishaps live on air

Production Designer

View Profession
Leo Yoshimura on making the transition from doing production design for theater to doing production design for television, and on finding work early in his career
Leo Yoshimura on his own and Eugene Lee's points of view and style of production design, and on his relationship with Lee
Leo Yoshimura on advice to aspiring production designers
SNL Production Design Team on how the team functions together, and on a typical work week for the team
SNL Production Design Team on their process of collaborating with each other on Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on their interaction with various other departments on Saturday Night Live
SNL Production Design Team on dealing with last minute issues on Saturday Night Live, and on mishaps live on air
Genres

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Leo Yoshimura on production designing for Saturday Night Live
People

Don Roy King

View Interview Page
SNL Production Design Team on working with the directors of Saturday Night Live, including Dave Wilson, Paul Miller, Beth McCarthy-Miller, and Don Roy King

Beth McCarthy-Miller

View Interview Page
SNL Production Design Team on working with the directors of Saturday Night Live, including Dave Wilson, Paul Miller, Beth McCarthy-Miller, and Don Roy King

Lorne Michaels

View Person Page
Leo Yoshimura on his and Eugene Lee's early understanding with Lorne Michaels about the production design of Saturday Night Live, and on designing the early home base set
SNL Production Design Team on Lorne Michaels' input into the Saturday Night Live home base set

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