SAVED BY THE BELL
November 25th, 2020 by Chase Helzer with Set Decorator Julie Bolder SDSA
The nineties are back!
Well sort of, with the continuation of SAVED BY THE BELL on NBC’s new streamer PEACOCK. The show is still set in Bayside and includes most of the original cast members. But this time their kids are the ones attending Bayside High, including Mac Morris [Mitchell Hoog], Zac Morris [Mark-Paul Gosselaar] and Kelly Kapowski’s son, and Jamie Spano [Belmont Carnell], Jessie Spano’s son, along with the addition of new characters. Former classmates Zac Morris and Kelly Kapowski [Tiffani Thiessen] are now fully grown and Governor and First Lady of California, while Jessie [Elizabeth Berkley] is Bayside’s guidance counselor and A.C. Slater [Mario Lopez] is the school physical education teacher/coach.
The concept of a personal workout area for the coach gave Mario as A.C. Slater the equipment to interact with and ended up being the favorite choice of all of the options considered...
Alycia Pascual-Pena, Mario Lopez. Photo by Casey Durkin ©Peacock 2020.
Set Decorator Julie Bolder SDSA was brought on to the project to bring Bayside back to life. She talks with Chase Helzer for SET DECOR about how she and Production Designer Joe Lucky accomplished the high task.
Chase Helzer, for SET DECOR: I grew up watching SAVED BY THE BELL so this will be fun. How familiar were you with the original show? Did that help your set decoration choices?
Set Decorator Julie Bolder SDSA: Our producer, Franco Bario, wanted to make sure we were all very familiar with the original show, so it played constantly on TVs in the main office area. The original show was a multi-cam with a small group of permanent sets for the high school. We replicated those sets as closely as we could, down to the smallest detail. We looked high and low for matching furniture...we even matched the placement of the picture frames on the wall behind the principal's desk.
We are now a much bigger single-camera show, and we needed to expand and update our sets, so we came up with the concept that the rest of the school had been remodeled. Only that one corner of the school hasn’t been updated. Principal Toddman has the only office in the whole school to not get remodeled, he’s still at the same old desk. Even the plants are the same after all these years. We also hid as many "Easter eggs” for the audience to find as we could. Anyone who knows the original show will recognize throwbacks that we tucked in all season.
SD: In re-creating the icon Bayside High and The Max, what was concept for each for this iteration? Did you try to make it an exact replica or try to keep it recognizable but with an update?
JB: The concept for Bayside High was that it is in an upscale area in Pacific Palisades, where the kids have a lot of money. The school is colorful and beautiful, everything is modern and the scale is grand. This contrasts with the school some of the new kids come from. Their previous school was much poorer, and the kids have quite the challenge adapting to the change.
Julie reveals, “Bayside's English classroom is right off the two-story entrance lobby. Joseph Lucky, production designer, chose cool blues and vivid oranges throughout the school for an updated, upscale Pacific Palisades look.”
Belmont Cameli, Josie Totah, Mitchell Hoog. Photo by Casey Durkin ©Peacock 2020.
The Max was a 3-wall set for the original multi-cam show. So much was filmed there in the first incarnation that we needed to be true to it. We duplicated those three walls, and the furniture. The tabletops had a very unique print, so our graphic designer re-created the pattern, we had it printed and tabletops built from them. Luckily, we were able to find the same version of all the chairs, but the bright red and blue booths we had to custom-make. Thank goodness they still make glittery vinyl upholstery in those bold, crazy colors!
Julie notes, “The Max was meticulously recreated to match the original show. From the tabletops to the booths, every detail was custom created to be what everyone remembers.”
The most difficult piece to find was the old juke box. Turns out those are collectors’ items and incredibly hard to source. It was our biggest challenge, but our buyers pulled it off and found one we could refurbish, and it matches perfectly.
The 4th wall was something the audience had never seen, so we pulled out all the stops in that direction. It’s a new diner counter area with a pass thru to the kitchen. It’s such a playful part of the set. We searched the internet for whimsical lighting, starbursts, hot pink and turquoise globes, we lit it up and made it so fun to look at. If you look closely, there are little notes to the servers taped to the walls and an “86” list on the fridge.
“New for the SAVED BY THE BELL fans is The Max’s fourth wall they have never seen before. What was previously a 3-wall multi-cam set now has a counter, prep area and full kitchen.”
SD: What was your most challenging set?
JB: The most challenging set was a formal Gala we did right when we came back from the shutdown. In order to be able to fulfill safety requirements, we had Town and Country install a massive 60’x150' tent outside up on the hill at Universal, and we filled it with dressing. Because we couldn’t have many people in the set, we made it look full with miles of drapery, star drapes, giant free-standing crystal light fixtures, multiple bars, chandeliers, beautiful linens and large florals from Sandy Rose. We were one of the first shows back, and the prop houses were running on skeleton crews if they were open at all. It was amazing we were able to pull that off in a city that was still pretty much a ghost town. The logistics of that set were definitely among the most challenging things we have had to do to date, and yet it came out so beautiful! Angelina at Town and Country really helped us pull that one together under very difficult circumstances. Just getting vendors on the lot was tricky. I’m surprised my Leadman Jesse Harris didn’t pull out all his hair on that one.
SD: Is set decoration different for a comedy like Saved by the Bell? Did you put any easter eggs that were in the original on your updated sets?
JB: Set decoration for a comedy like SAVED BY THE BELL does look a little different. You can use bolder colors, and you can fill the sets with a lot of visual stimulation. Our sets are layered on-layered, you can fill them until they are overflowing and you can still add more in this type of comedy.
“Bayside High School has the best of everything, so the Chem Lab is well outfitted.”
SD: How much research did you have on this project and what did it consist of?
JB: We did a lot of research for this show. We had to know what was around every corner in the original version. If a teacher was coming back from the original, we had to find out what quirky items were on their desk back then, and expand that out to what they might have collected in their classroom over all these years. We also have most of the original cast in the new version, so we needed to learn their characters in depth and think about how they have changed. Then we needed to decide how to bring the life they have had in all those years away into their new sets. For instance, in Jessie Spano’s office, her character has spent the years away from Bayside traveling the world helping people, and becoming a best-selling author. Those elements are represented in her office in photographs of her around the world, some of her books, and items she has collected in her travels.
“Preparing for the school’s Harvest Festival...We filled the gym with fall trees, arches and walls of balloons, hay wagons full of desserts, and soda bars for the big event. Our graphic designer created orange graphics we added to Town and Country's tall light towers that gave the set a gorgeous orange glow.” Haskiri Velazquez, Mitchell Hoog. Photo by Casey Durkin ©Peacock 2020.
SD: What set was your favorite set?
JB: We had a Harvest Festival that we really went all out for. We filled a huge gym with Fall trees, hay bales, wagon wheels and giant balloon walls. There were soda bars, a big stage and wooden wagons filled with desserts. I like to use as much practical lighting as I can in interesting ways, so we had graphic designers create beautiful Harvest designs to go on very tall light towers from Town and Country. It was magical when the set was lit and glowing gold and orange.
SD: What did the prep time and filming schedule look like for this project?
JB: I think we had 5 weeks to prep, and of course we went down in the middle for the pandemic. We walked away suddenly and didn’t know what to expect months later when we came back. Did we remember to empty out the fridges with the prop food? The stages got very hot because the AC was off, so we didn’t know how much damage to the set dressing there would be. Some of the floors had to be replaced but, surprisingly, most of the set dressing was fine. Even the pastries we had in the display cases in The Max stayed perfectly intact.
SD: Is there a take-away you want the audience to get from your sets?
JB: We really hope the fans love both all the throwbacks and visual memories, and the new part of Bayside they get to see for the first time! There is so much more of everything this time around.
SD: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about SAVED BY THE BELL?
JB: This is one of my favorite shows I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of. It’s been a great experience and I hope we get to do it again!
SAVED BY THE BELL premiered November 25 on PEACOCK.
“The juke box was a real challenge to find, as it's a collector’s item now. The one difference is that now there's fourth wall, and the audience will finally get to see what the diner's counter and kitchen look like!”
Photo by Chris Haston ©Peacock 2020.
“Production Designer Joseph Lucky designed the curving teardrop shaped countertop, now a centerpoint for action.”
Dexter Darden, Belmont Cameli, Mitchell Hoog, Alycia Pascual-Pena, Josie Totah, Haskiri Velazquez, Mariah Iman Wilson. Photo by Tyler Golden ©Peacock 2020.
The Max – You’ll have to watch the show to see the story behind this!
DeShawn Cavanaugh, Belmont Cameli. Photo by Tyler Golden ©Peacock 2020.
“Trigonometry at Bayside has some older elements in the classroom, because it's the same teacher after all these years! Although his classroom may have been remodeled, his furniture remains the same.”
“Coach Slater's office evolved as we decorated. What started out to be a tiny office in part of a sports equipment storage room, changed into being Slater's personal workout/office combination. Framed on the wall is Slater's wrestling uniform from the original show, and memorabilia from his own high school days fill the shelves.”
Coach Slater's office: The placement of set pieces such as the trophy case helped give more dimension to the space and different angles for camera and conversation.
Alycia Pascual-Pena, Mario Lopez. Photo by Casey Durkin ©Peacock 2020.