The Baby-Sitters Club is a bona fide Netflix hit, and a huge part of why it’s made such a splash is the detail that went into creating its world for the small screen.
To help us understand what went into translating the books, we chatted with Tink, the production designer, who broke down his process and shared some fun behind-the-scenes facts.
Once you’ve finished reading this interview, you’ll immediately want to watch (or rewatch) The Baby-Sitters Club!
How did you become involved with the series?
The Baby-Sitters Club is not a typical style for me. Generally, I do stuff that’s a bit darker, with more action. Then I found out how iconic the books are. A very good friend of mine — a producer in New York by the name of Jane Startz — produced the 1995 Baby-Sitters Club movie, and she pushed me to say yes. Also, producers Rachel [Shukert] and Lucia [Aniello] being involved [in the series] was a big yes for me.
At what point in the production of a series are you typically brought in?
I’m usually one of the first people to be given scripts. For The Baby-Sitters Club, I was sent an outline for two scripts, and they had asked me to create what I thought the world of each of these bedrooms looked like within a couple of days. It’s not a world that immediately comes to mind, but with a lot of studying and reading into their characters, I did these initial concepts and they liked them. So that got me the job. Then I brought in my crew and we did a lot of research, going through all the books and some of what was shot before. One thing I was most happy about was that they didn’t want to emulate anything from the 90s TV series or the movie. They wanted it to be a fresh take using the books as a guide.
How did you find the area in Vancouver that was used for exterior shots?
Maps of Stoneybrook’s layout have been published with sketched versions of the architecture. So we spent a lot of time looking for that specific neighborhood. It was tough because we needed to find three houses on the same street, but each one needed its own character. I wanted an idyllic street with the grassy boulevards, sidewalks, lawns, and big trees. We found it in South Vancouver. Because of our time constraints and the difficulties with finding the perfect street, we were building the sets before we had our exterior locations to match. I was also giving our location department ideal shapes of houses to look for, or specific types of windows.
Can you share a bit about working with a well-loved franchise and bringing it to the screen in a way that honors the source material?
Everyone who’s involved with the show — [producers] Rachel and Lucia, and Naia Cucukov with Walden — they’ve grown up with these stories. They’ve invested in them already, and they have [a picture] in their mind of what they think it should be. Often when I do a project, and especially when I do a series, I’m given a fair amount of free rein. On this one, we would present something to them, and they would say what was good [then give some direction]. Thankfully, my amazing art director, Alyssa King, and set decorator, Victoria Söderholm, knew these books and characters to imbue a lot of that stuff. It was a bit of a process, but it was fun. Then we put together the sets — all the girls’ bedrooms, plus the main floor of Claudia’s house — on a soundstage which was limited in size. There was some mathematics to making everything fit and getting it built on time. And creating Claudia’s bedroom took the longest.
What went into building each girl’s bedroom?
There’s actually a bible on the characters that’s been published outside of the books, and we had that as reference. That’s how we found touchstones for each of the characters, things that they have at certain times in their lives, and their family history. We sifted through that, and that’s what I presented on my initial concept boards for each bedroom. I gave each girl a color palette. Stacey was neutral whites and golds, and subtle, elegant, luxurious colors. Claudia was the vibrant one. My paint coordinator, Beth Snelgrove, is one of the best in Vancouver, and because we’ve worked together so much, I tell her what we’re looking for and she’ll have her team paint up a bunch of different samples. We had a few color iterations in Claudia’s bedroom — some were subtle, others clashed a bit too much, but it was all green and lilac. Dawn was more of the greens and reds. Kristy’s [palette was based on her] being the tomboy, plus her family not having a lot of money and items being hand-me-downs. And then the concept for Mary Anne’s bedroom was that it was decorated by her mom and dad when it was her nursery, then her mom passed away and her dad never wanted to change it. That’s why there’s a Humpty Dumpty over her bed. We have a flashback photo that we staged in there of baby Mary Anne with her mom where the crib used to be. As you get into later episodes, she changes her bedroom around a bit.
What are some notable items that we should look for in the show?
Here are a few from Claudia’s room:
- The [landline] phone was a big thing, and it was hard to find. There were a few, but the colors were a bit off, or they didn’t have the lights, so we rigged the lights. We had three versions of it in case one broke, but we got them on eBay.
- The feathered lap hanging up in Claudia’s room was from Alyssa’s house because we couldn’t find one in time to buy. She just donated hers and bought a new one, which she received a month later.
- One of my favorite things is the purple chair. We found it, and my set decorator was so excited that the arm opened. It had this old, ratty fabric, but we loved the shape and that arm. We got the fabric and reupholstered it in purple with a contrasting color for the interior compartment.
Want more behind-the-scenes intel from The Baby-Sitters Club? Add Wiretap to Chrome, then look out for Tink’s comments throughout Season 1.
(This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Images Courtesy of Netflix