Ina Mayhew talks about crafting coziness in Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings

DOLLY PARTON'S HEARTSTRINGS - Credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix
DOLLY PARTON'S HEARTSTRINGS - Credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix /
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DOLLY PARTON’S HEARTSTRINGS – Credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix /

Ina Mayhew discusses her love of Dolly Parton and the immense amount of work that went into crafting the cozy vibe of Netflix’s Heartstrings.

Ina Mayhew is no stranger to working with multiple directors, or on designing gorgeously detailed sets. The accomplished production designer is known for her work on OWN series Queen Sugar. Her latest project is Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, a heartwarming anthology series on Netflix.

Mayhew has been in the business for a long time and worked on television series and films from all genres. Aside from her work on Heartstrings and Queen Sugar, Mayhew has worked with notable directors like Spike Jonze and Tyler Perry. She knows what it takes to craft an excellent set.

Her talents were put to good use in Heartstrings, where each episode revolves around a self-contained storyline, often in competing time periods. It wasn’t each to create so many varied sets but Mayhew believes that the challenge is part of the fun.

Hidden Remote: I’ve been watching Heartstrings and so far I’ve really enjoyed it!

Ina Mayhew: Oh good! I binge-watched all of them the first weekend it came out. I wanted to see them all.

HR: Yep, that’s what I’m doing right now! How did you get involved in the project? Were you a fan of Dolly Parton already?

IM: It was an interesting connection from a friend of mine who was working on the first Dolly Parton movie. They wanted to make a change for the production designer, and I did the second Dolly Parton Christmas movie — which came out about a year or so ago — and from that relationship they asked me to do the television series.

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So, they know me and a lot of the people involved in the Dolly Parton world were producers and colleagues that I worked with before. I joined through those relationships.

HR: Did you actually get to collaborate with Dolly to create the sets?

IM: I actually did work with her. We would show her producing partner a lot of the sets for her initial approval. Then she would show up and make comments. She was incredibly generous and really supportive.

Dolly always loved the direction of all the designs and was really happy about all of it. She did come to visit often and was in a lot of the episodes as well but she’s always really positive and really easy to work with, she’s a terrific person

HR: She seems like she would be! I know the series has been getting some great praise due to how inclusive it is, is that something important that was important to you going into it?

IM: One of the things I do like about Dolly is that she is very inclusive and very aware in making sure that, even in the movie we did, that there would be African American characters, women in power, and gay or lesbian characters. She was just really open that way. That was a definite plus on my side.

HR: Did you work on every single episode or just certain episodes?

IM: I did every one.

HR: I was wondering how you tackle a show like this, where every episode is different — some are even set in different time periods — yet you still have to make it feel cohesive.

IM: I wanted to do the whole thing just to have a sense of cohesion between the episodes. I thought it was important to carry some kind of design theme between each one. I had a terrific staff and a wonderful decorator. We had two decorators at one time, and it was crazy that I could juggle that, to be honest. I was so interested in every single one of those periods that it was great for me to do something so different from one to the other.

I had great support. I was able to get the research done, since we did extensive research for every episode, and the producing team was really wonderful to work with, they were really helpful to schedule a lot of time with me and each of the directors. I think my experience on Queen Sugar helped me to juggle directors from one episode to the next.

It was difficult. I’m not going to tell you it was easy, it was a challenge, but we loved it so much and we were like “we’re going to do this! we’re doing it!” It was really exciting, that’s the bottom line.

HR: I imagine it doesn’t get boring since you’re constantly changing to adapt to the story!

IM: No, not at all!