Mylene Santos interview: ‘Girls5eva’ production designer
Season 2 of “Girls5eva” found the titular band in album mode as the ladies recorded their new album, “Returnity.” That meant production designer Mylene Santos, who served as art director on the first season, had to come up with some brand new sets. “I was so thrilled to get to design,” she tells Gold Derby (watch the exclusive video interview above). “Being the art director, we did so many different sets, so many music videos. Anything that came into the writers’ minds, we got to design, so I was all for anything and everything for the second season.”
The season premiere introduces one of the new locations, the girls’ new record company, Property Records, the latest (sadly fictional) venture of the Property Brothers. The conference room where the band takes its many meetings with label rep Tate (Grey Henson) was actually the wardrobe area next to the art department. “We took over the wardrobe area and converted that into the conference room. It was already divided up by that glass, but I got to put color in the glass and make it more vibrant and more like a fresh upstart company. We got to just go around the corner and just be on the set and work right there. We had to be out of the office while they were shooting. We couldn’t work that day in the office, but it looked great,” Santos shares. “We like to take advantage of spaces like that, especially during COVID. A lot of people don’t like you to come into your space or strangers come into their space, so that was definitely a plus.”
Throughout the season, Santos gradually filled in the area with more detail and props to show that this was owned by Drew and Jonathan Scott. The room’s initial appearance is more bare to indicate a “just moved in” vibe as the twins expand their media empire. “We had a few moving boxes. As the episodes developed, we would add more and more spaces that would get more and more lived in because they were just beginning and they had just found that space.”
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On the other hand, the recording studio had a lot of history and character from the jump. In her research, Santos learned that studios had angled walls and are outfitted in various materials, like carpeting, brick, stone and foam, in order to control the sound. Producers also requested that it be a mid-range studio — not too fancy, but not shabby either.
“I thought this company, when they had money, would renovate certain areas during certain times,” she explains. “Maybe they moved in in the ‘70s and they had that wood paneling and the carpeting on the walls. And in the ‘80s, they added the neon lights and then in the ‘90s, they did the ‘90s graphics and then maybe in 2000, they did all the new doors with the glass. It was a very conscious effort to make it look mismatched in time periods and materials so that it didn’t look like a super high-end, fancy designed studio because these girls are still on the up and up.”
While it appears to be a full studio with numerous rooms on the show, that was not the case in reality due to limited stage space. Instead, Santos created that illusion by trying to “cheat the depth” in her background designs. “I had these little rooms in the background that were other isolation rooms, but they never shot in there. But they made the space look a lot bigger,” she says. “I made sure when you were in one end, you could see through a door, through a window, through a door. And that gave it a lot of depth and made it look like a lot bigger than it actually was. I know it was really tight in there, but I think it had a lot of depth and I think it was really successful that way and I’m really proud of it.”