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Beth Rickers, Forum News Service, Published July 24 2013

Graphic designer slips Minn. hometown references into TV show props

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Fans of the TV show “Dexter” on Showtime only have to look for the clues to find a connection to the Worthington, Minn., area:

A large truck with the words “Okabena Feed & Seed” emblazoned on the side of the trailer box.

Prescription bottles that come from the Ahlf Drug pharmacy.

A Yellowpages ad for Rickbiel Hardware Store – misspelling intentional.

The local references are slipped into the production thanks to graphic designer Kevin Egeland, a 1981 graduate of Worthington High School and son of Jan and the late David Egeland.

Kevin Egeland recently finished up work on the final season of “Dexter,” the acclaimed Showtime series that focuses on Dexter Morgan (played by Michael C. Hall), a blood spatter pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department who also leads a secret life as a serial killer.

Egeland spent the last seven seasons as the show’s graphic designer, working behind the scenes on the Emmy-winning show.

Stage start

As a student performing in plays at Worthington High School, Egeland got a kick out of eliciting a response from the audience, and he began to consider a possible career on the stage.

“I think I enjoyed doing theater with (teacher) Ellen Copperud, taking her classes and doing plays with her, and she was very encouraging,” Egeland recalled during a recent telephone interview from his office in California. “It was really fun to go up there and play make-believe and get reactions from audiences. I liked comedy, because every once in a while I could make people laugh.”

One of his more comedic turns was in the musical production of “My Fair Lady,” during his senior year at WHS, in which he played Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza’s inebriated father.

“That wasn’t method acting back then,” he assured with a chuckle.

Fully intending to become a theater star, Egeland headed to Minnesota State University Mankato, where he took all the theater and art classes he could fit into his schedule. He also did summer theater productions in northern Minnesota.

Back on campus, Egeland decided it behooved him to get a grasp on the technical side of theater, even though he never intended to engage in it.

“At Mankato, I decided to focus on technical theater for a year,” he explained. “If I was going to have to be around those technical people, I figured I should try to understand them.”

In the production side of theater, Egeland discovered the connection between his two loves: theater and art.

“So, I never went back to acting,” he said.

Career path

Egeland admits that while his schedule at Mankato was packed with theatrical offerings, he neglected the general requirements.

“One day, my adviser came in and said, ‘You have no intention of finishing up your generals, do you?’ ” Egeland said.

The professor encouraged him to get a jump on his career.

“So, I took my stuff and went up to Minneapolis, and the first day up there I got a job with Theater in the Round Players as a set designer,” he said. “That didn’t pay anything, but then I found someone who needed a carpenter at Mixed Blood Theater.”

Egeland used some Minnesota connections to get a job as a set designer on the movie, “Overnight Delivery” with Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd.

During that short stay in L.A., he was asked to interview for a job as art director of three low-budget science fiction movies, which would be shot one right after another.

“I never went back,” Egeland said. “I stayed in L.A., have been here ever since. I started doing film, then moved into television.”

Egeland’s resume lists 19 feature films on which he has worked as a graphic artist, art director, set designer or production designer, including “Jeepers Creepers,” “The New Swiss Family Robinson,” “A Simple Plan” and most recently “Atlas Shrugged.” The list of TV programs is just as long.

“I’ve worked on ‘Castle,’ ‘CSI: New York,’ filled in here and here on ‘Criminal Minds,’ ‘Franklin and Bash’ – all kinds of things,” Egeland said. “I don’t remember what I all do anymore.”

Hometown hints

While he occasionally finds time for other projects, most of Egeland’s recent creative efforts focused on “Dexter,” and when he needs to come up with a name to put on any of the props, he often injects a bit of his hometown.

“It starts out innocent enough,” he explained.

Egeland makes everything that is a printed prop, a sign, poster, document, police files and ID badges, even graphics on police cars and computer screens.

“With that often comes a lot of names, so I’m coming up with names, and so classmates from Worthington appear, relatives,” he said. “There are a lot of my classmates who have been doctors and police lieutenants, workers at the courthouse, on all the shows I’ve worked with, and there have been products and names of companies, too.”

The most prominent item, in Egeland’s recollection, was the semi-truck from Okabena Feed & Seed.

“In the season where we had the Trinity Killer with John Lithgow, he buys his hammer at Rickbiel’s Hardware, but we had to swap the “I” and the “E,” so it’s spelled wrong for legal purposes.”

Just about every name Egeland uses on a prop has to be OK’d by the production’s legal department and not all of them make the cut.

“I almost had the Glenn K. Evensen Federal Building,” said Egeland, referring to a former WHS band director, now deceased. “I’ve been trying to get Glenn in there for the longest time, but somehow the writer or producer always wants a friend’s name in there instead. I know I’ve sent Glenn K. through legal many times.”

Just a few days ago, “Dexter” had its final day of shooting on the lot at Sunset Gallery Studios, formerly the Columbia Pictures studio where many iconic films were shot.

“So the writers are all gone now, the hallways are emptying out, and they’re packing things up on all the stages,” Egeland said. “But an exciting thing is that we’ve been assembling a lot of the props and different things used on the show, and they are going to the Smithsonian.

He looks forward to the day when his work is displayed alongside Archie Bunker’s chair and the Enterprise from “Star Trek.”

For the short term, Egeland will lend a hand on an NBC sitcom.

“I’m going to ‘Parks and Recreation’ for a couple weeks,” he said. “They wanted me to help them out with graphics for two to three weeks. A friend of mine is art directing the show. It may turn into something more. It will be a little more lighthearted than what I’ve been doing.”

And perhaps a few Worthington names might turn up on yet another TV show.