“It’s the first time I’ve ever done something and am not mad when I look at it,” confesses production designer Susie Mancini about working on “Space Force.” In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above), she continues, “I’m just taking about production design. When I watch my work I usually want to cry or hide in a corner. I’m hard on myself in all aspects of my life. It’s hard for me to be appreciative of the work I’ve done. For the most part we did good, I’m proud of my team.”
“Space Force” is a Netflix comedy about the new U.S. military branch of the same name. She explains, “It’s about something we haven’t seen yet it exists. You have to create something that is cinematic yet realistic. Everyone who is a nerd in science or a military person needs to think it’s possible. There were a lot of elements that really scared me. When I watch it, I think we created a good balance of realism and cinematic looks. The entire headquarters is all built on a sound stage. It’s a very large set and we had a month and a half to make that one happen. In total, we have more than 50 sets.”
The first season of the show saw the characters rush a scheduled operation to put “boots on the moon” years early. This storyline was somewhat reflected behind the scenes. Mancini reveals, “To do the moon-lander, we had to build separate interiors. These are sets that needed to change overnight and move the day after. I had to build it, and we had two weeks, because the script arrived at the last minute. I don’t think we were supposed to land on the moon this season. It’s team work, it was great to work with the art department team.”
The show was co-created by Greg Daniels, who is responsible for the U.S. version of “The Office.” Mancini explains, “I’ve been a huge fan of him for so many years. I’ve seen every single thing he’s written. I’ve always considered him a genius of comedy writing. I know ‘The Office’ by heart, I’m one of those hard-core fans. When I got the chance, I don’t think I slept a full night for months just for the excitement. I thanked Greg and told him ‘you helped me in dark moments of my life. You made me smile when it was impossible to.’”
When putting the ‘Space Force’ sets together, the designer appreciated features that can go unnoticed. She elaborates, “The little details get lost but there was a lot of thought behind it. In the plaza there is a metal statue of the solar system. I first designed it with the sun was in the center. Greg came back to me and said, ‘I was thinking we do the medieval model, in which the earth is on the center, I think it’s funnier.’”
One of the boldest choices made by Mancini was to use North Korean influences for one of the sets. She says, “The room in the Pentagon, I designed thinking of North Korea. The details of architecture for that stage is inspired by congressional building interiors from North Korea; from the columns, to paneling, to color of the carpet. It was fun; in the core of American government, where all the heads of the military meet, to have North Korea all around them.”
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