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 /

Finding and building the perfect sets

HR: Did you always film on a set or did you film on location at all?

IM: We did a lot of building on stage and on location but, I don’t know if you’ve seen the “J.J. Sneed” episode — the Western episode — those builds were mostly on location. We did some interior work on the stage but we went back and forth. We had two stages that were working with on that one, in particular. We did an exterior and interior build on location. That was, again, challenging but fun.

HR: One thing I really liked about watching the show is the sense of coziness it creates. The sets feel very warm and inviting. Was that something you worked to build specifically?

IM: Yes, we wanted to have this enjoyable environment about everything. We really wanted to make you feel at home and comfortable in the environment. My decorator and I collaborated on what the decor should be, for the characters as well, but really emphasizing the family-oriented storylines and making sure everything felt inviting.

We wanted it to feel like we were in someone’s living room and you were invited in too. I wanted the audience to feel like they were part of the story.

HR: I think it was the house in the “Cracker Jack” episode where I went, yeah, I want to live there.

IM: That was a fantastic house. It was in Georgia off a lake. We looked for a while to find that perfect house. You walk down through the woods to the water, all that was really there. I added the fire pit in the backyard just to add a little something to them getting out of the house. That was a fantastic house and it had great bones.

HR: Did you have a favorite set to work on?

IM: That’s tough. I loved doing “These Old Bones.” There are a lot of sets in that episode like the courtroom. The challenging ones were fun for me. The Western [“J.J. Sneed”] episode was really great for me to do, but, hey, Baby Blues [the honkytonk bar from “Jolene”] was a lot of fun too! We had a great time. It’s so hard to say which are my favorites.

We even made the carnival. We created that world. There were a lot of great people, you know what I mean? There are so many and as even as I talk about it I’m still like, “well what about this one? Or that one too!”

HR: In contrast to some of the cozier sets you also had the big stages with performances going on, like in the “Jolene” episode and in “Two Doors Down” where Dolly performs at the wedding and everything is more glitzy and glamorous.

IM: Yes, that was a ballroom set we ended up building at the end. That was our last shoot and it was fun to end with a really high-end set full of glamor, glitz, bling and sparkly trees! Again, see? That was another thing that was really fun to do!

I love creating these worlds and I hope that my enthusiasm carries over to my crew. I want them to follow me into my crazy world with layers and molding. They get into it and I’m like, great, I’ll have them do more!

HR: I was really impressed because I feel like in an anthology series it might be easy to make things a little bland since you’re trying to do so many stories but every episode felt very personalized and fitting. You can tell a lot of love and labor went into creating each set.

IM: That’s so good! It’s always hard when you start a show. We did build everything with crazy detail — even stuff you didn’t see. Every world was complete

HR: I’m sure that helped the actors too.

IM: Right! It’s important to tell them the story so as soon as they walk on set, they get it. They can say, “I see, this is how my character lives” and that’s why we have so much stuff because they can touch things and open things and really live in it.

I like to give them some time to sit in the set and understand why we did all these things. There is a reason behind everything. Nothing was just placed arbitrarily, it was there because it was how that person would have lived in that time.

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HR: Thank you so much for chatting with me. I really enjoyed the show and I look forward to finishing it! I hope it performs really well for you guys. I’d love to see a second season.

IM: Thanks! I know, everyone wants a second season!

Season one of Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings is now available to stream on Netflix.