Hulu’s new comedy “Dollface” stars Kat Dennings as Jules, a woman jumping back into friendships after breaking up with her boyfriend. Production designer Susie Mancini and prop master Sarah Snyder were tasked with balancing the grounded elements of the show with the satirical and fantastical moments that also exist within the series’ world.
Woom, the fictional women’s lifestyle company where Jules works, is a recurring set. For that, Mancini wanted the architecture to reflect the femininity of the business, and she based it in part on The Wing, a women-centric workspace that originated in New York City.
“The corners where the walls attach to the floor are curved, so it’s very pleasant for the eye,” Mancini says of the design, which is “exaggerated at times because of the satirical view.” Mancini finished the walls with a special soft stucco. Though pricey, the material provides a subtle texture that adds a sense of depth and creates more interest in the frame.
Woom isn’t the only set where Mancini uses unique finishes to enhance the visual storytelling. In Episode 2, when Jules moves into a furnished apartment, Mancini has to determine the qualities of the person who would have lived there based on a few scripted lines. She envisioned the busy, comfortable home of an elderly woman and designed each wall, including the ceiling, with different textures and patterns to enhance the backstory. Wood finishes and dimensional wallpaper, painted over to give it a glossy look under the hot stage lights, add to the home’s feel. Mancini stuck with subdued colors so the actors would stand out. “It was a lot for the eyes,” says Mancini, who admits the look was risky.
The sets provided the framework for the series’ action, much of which involved prop master Snyder creating or sourcing an array of seemingly random items, such as the glass helmet that Celeste (Malin Akerman) wears for a beauty treatment in Episode 2. Snyder found a plastic version, since glass would have been too heavy for Ackerman to wear. She had to poke strategic holes in it, so it wouldn’t fog up during the scene. “You have to think of things like that,” she says.
Since the beauty treatment involved geckos — and there are shots of the actual lizards in the episode — Snyder had to come up with believable fakes. To create the perfect match, the construction department hand-painted ones she found online to match the living reptiles.
In a later episode, the crew was on location near Chinatown in Los Angeles when the producers decided a character should eat a T-bone steak on camera. It was late at night, and Snyder had to find a store that was open — and that sold steaks. “It’s hard to find American food in Chinatown,” she says. “Luckily, I found a store on the other side of the 110 [freeway] and the guy thought I was crazy. I bought 20!”