Hulu's new show, Dollface, is a funny feminist tribute to the power of female friendships. After the main protagonist Jules is dumped by her longtime boyfriend, she realizes that she has no women to turn to. So, she rekindles old friendships and meets new fabulous ladies along the way, all while learning from her spiritual mentor, a half-cat, half-woman who places her in challenging situations.
The show is a magically surreal take on finding friends and love in Los Angeles through the eyes of a group of very fashionable, very 21st century millennials. They dress cool, they're forward thinking, and they live, work, and interact in a number of modern and chic environments.
We spoke with Susie Mancini, production designer for Dollface, about how she created the spaces that added to the femininity, hilarity, and surrealistic elements of the show.
Hunker: What attracted you to working on Dollface?
Susie Mancini (SM): I worked with director Matt Spicer on the movie Ingrid Goes West. He talked to me about it and I interviewed with the creators and writers and showed them my ideas. They all loved my approach.
Hunker: What was your approach?
SM: I only based it off the first episode. I went with a very feminine and fresh outlook. I tried to marry the realism with the surrealism. Environments were slightly enhanced. It was all based off reality, except it was slightly more interesting. The show is also sarcastic. The entire office of Woom (where Jules works) is a hyper-feminist environment. Everything is soft and rounded and there are no hard corners. There are tons of arches, and the colors are passive. Everything felt very womby. The conference room is a circle of glass that has curtains with burgundy colors, and when it's closed you feel like it's like a womb. The fonts we chose were very puffy.
Hunker: Jules lives in a grandma-chic apartment, which is a huge trend right now among millennials. Were you aware of that when you put her in this environment?
SM: It wasn't a trend when we were filming but I see it happening more and more. Vintage has always been part of LA. Everyone has some grandma item in their house … at least my friends do. They're art department people. I definitely wanted a cool grandma house. I didn't want a house that just belonged to some old person and wasn't interesting visually. We spent a lot of time in that apartment so we wanted it to look interesting. Everything is very textured. We have walls with different types of textures. I think we had five different wallpapers in that apartment. There are a lot of nooks with architectural details. The ceiling has tiles. They're laminate and painted on this high-gloss, pearl skin tone color and there's this crazy chandelier in the center. There was so much going on, but there was nothing new or fresh. It felt fitting to the character (of Jules), because she's an old soul but really fun and kind of crazy.
Hunker: Did you go to thrift stores for the furniture?
SM: The set designer sourced a ton from many different thrift stores. We made a ton of stuff, too. We found fabric and reupholstered couches.
Hunker: Where did you source the rest of the furniture and décor for the show?
SM: We used some stuff from CB2, Anthropologie, Chairish, and a lot of private sellers on eBay and Etsy. We also rented from Modernica, which is a prop house and a store. When we couldn't find something, we made it from scratch.
Hunker: How did you come up with ideas for the designs?
SM: I looked at high-end magazines — Architectural Digest is my favorite — and blogs, Pinterest, or anything that could give me an idea. I tried to keep the research to a minimalistic, contemporary, modern design. The choice of adding textured walls with marble and stucco is something you often see. I tried to make it unique for the show. My sources for inspiration are infinite. They come from a movie, a cartoon, or maybe from a postcard I saw in a store in France 10 years ago.
Hunker: How did your personal aesthetic play into your designs?
SM: I'm very eclectic. I like to mix and match and have fun with my surroundings, but I also like elegance. But you can't always do what you like; you have to serve the script. In Madison's apartment there are a lot of things that are me. Even with the art on the wall, I made it myself or I did it in collaboration with Angela Deane. She's a painter I love from Florida. She's so fun and fresh. We had her art all over our sets.
Hunker: The episode with Margot Robbie as the spiritual guru hit very close to home here in Los Angeles. Had you been to one of those retreats before designing the look of the tent?
SM: I'm the opposite of the type of person who would go to a retreat. I did research and sourced a bunch of different ideas and looks. I've lived in LA for 13 years and I know a lot of people that go to these retreats. It was fun to research them.
Hunker: There are so many luscious plants on the show. Which ones were you favorite and where did you find them?
SM: I am very particular about greens. We had a lady whose name was Mary, and she was in charge of flower compositions. We went over them and I gave her a million Pinterest options that I liked. They changed every episode. We used stuff that is very LA that you can find pretty much everywhere. I know we used a bunch of the ficus plants with the flat large leaf. Those were everywhere.
Hunker: Do the girls on Dollface have a typical millennial style?
SM: The show is very LA 2019. The creator of the show, Jordan Weiss, is a young millennial. She is a brilliant girl; she's a very talented, hardworking writer. It's a young show. It's the stories of her youth with her girlfriends. The stories are enhanced by the magical realism of the show. What she wanted was to have a modern take on LA society from a female point of view.
Hunker: Are you a millennial?
SM: I am. 1984. But I don't feel like a millennial. I'm an old soul.