How does ‘The Big Bang Theory’ staircase work?
By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links
“The Big Bang Theory” staircase and hallway set has become a key part of the series — but there’s not actually a multi-story set used to create the famous sequences when the characters walk up or down the stairs.
- In the comedy series, two key apartments (originally home to Sheldon, Leonard and Penny) are supposed to be on the fourth floor of 2311 N. Los Robles Avenue in Pasadena.
- Throughout the series, the writers frequently portray the characters walking up or down the stairs, with each hallway-landing appearing to be a different floor.
- However, in reality, there is only one hallway-staircase set on Stage 25 on the Warner Brothers lot (a separate set is available for the lobby, which connects to the stairs).
- When scenes involving multiple floors are filmed, the same set is redressed to appear to be different floors — the production design and set dressing teams change out the apartment number plaques and add or remove items ranging from water jugs, potted plants, decals and bicycles to make it appear that each part of the scene is on a different floor.
- The yellow tape and “out of order” signs on the broken elevator are also changed for each “floor.”
- The doors are mostly kept closed or shot in a way that hides the fact that they actually lead to the fourth floor apartment sets.
- If you look closely, you can see that, on each floor, the scuffs on the walls and baseboards are the same on each “floor.”
- The two staircases, which in the real world would wrap around the back and sides of the elevator shaft, actually just lead to backstage areas.
- In scenes where actors are shown climbing up to the fourth floor to their apartments — or, in rarer cases, up to the top floor or roof, actors simply start out of camera view and act as though they are walking up or down the stairs.
- When the set was first built, the show’s production team actually dug a hole in the studio floor to allow for the “down” staircase.
- For multi-floor scenes involving walking up all four levels, actors start on the lobby set, which is a separate, and walk up the stairs and out of camera view.
- The staircase here, like on the main hallway set outside the apartments, doesn’t actually lead anywhere except an off-camera “platform” for actors to stand on.
- They then walk over to the main staircase set, which is built between the two four floor apartment sets, and start off camera in the “pit” and climb the stairs, continuing the dialogue while walking onto the hallway set, which is decorated as the “second floor.”
- They then climb the stairs on the left.
- The set is then redressed and, the actors move back to the hole in the ground and continue the dialogue climbing up the stairs onto the “third floor.” The process is repeated again for the fourth or fifth floor, as needed.
- When an episode is edited together, the result is a scene that appears to span different floors without interruption.
- The process can also be reversed for scenes that involve walking down the stairs from upper floors.