"Better Call Saul" designer uses local Albuquerque art for the hit show

ABQ designer used local art in crafting the world of ‘Better Call Saul’

Andrea Sooch as Margarethe and Tony Dalton as Lalo Salamanca in a scene from “Better Call Saul.” Set decorator Ashley Marsh was in charge of keeping the dark feel to the show. (Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Ashley Marsh has a keen eye for details.

Ashley Marsh

This is an asset when it comes to her job as a set decorator in the film industry.

While Marsh has worked on plenty of New Mexico-filmed productions over the years, she got the call to be the set decorator for the final season of “Better Call Saul.”

The series begins airing the second part of its final season at 7 p.m. Monday, July 11, on AMC.

“For me it was really exciting (to be a part of the series) because I’ve lived in Albuquerque for about 15 years,” Marsh says. “I love that Albuquerque is a character. Being able to be part of a world where our city is a character is really fun.”

Marsh says the series – which was created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould – is quite different than any other projects she’s been a part of.

“Not all film and TV are created the same,” she says. “The writing is where the brilliance starts. With great writing, it makes my job easier because the characters are fully fleshed out and you know who they are.”

For Marsh, the challenge of coming in on the sixth and final season had its own pressure.

The show has been running smoothly for five seasons, which meant she had to keep the aesthetics the same, while adding a bit of her vision to the mix.

She describes her job as getting on set and dealing with all the furniture and artwork.

“All the little things that can create and imaginative, real space, from the floor up,” she says. “We got to do everything to make it feel real. With this show, it’s about creating like, almost an undertone of sinister without it feeling that way. It’s not as straightforward because it’s a mystery.”

Marsh made a giant effort in the current season to have local art in the series.

“Recognizing local artists is one of my passions,” she says, “because I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do this and what kind of audience I’ll be able to show my work. My work only looks better with other people’s amazing work. So being able to go the local galleries and get pieces to showcase is good for our community as a whole. We should, as artists, be lifting each other up and helping each other to build a better community.”

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill and Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler in a scene from the sixth season of “Better Call Saul.” (Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Marsh says she worked a lot with Weems Gallery and Sumner and Dene.

“Belen Art League was a big help this season,” she says. “A bunch of galleries in Old Town. If galleries were willing to work with us, we’d make it happen.”

Marsh says the vendor relationships are a big part of her job.

“A long time ago, when we were such a baby film community, some films didn’t pay their vendors,” she says. “You have to make sure that you take care of anyone that you buy or rent from. That is part of your reputation.”

Marsh went to school to study theater design. At the time, her sister was attending the College of Santa Fe and told her about the burgeoning film industry and to give it a try.

“I did and my first film was ‘Observe and Report,’ when they shot at Winrock,” she says. “That’s where I got to learn about all the different departments and what was going on. I learned that a lot of my skills in theater transferred to the film industry. I’ve been set decorating for about six years.”

With more than a decade in the film industry, Marsh sees plenty of opportunities to continue to grow.

She credits the film industry for keeping her in the state.

“This industry helped me buy a house,” she says. “The industry benefits a lot of New Mexicans. I’m just one example of being able to remain here and do what I love.”

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