When the Production Design team of production designer Glenda Rovello, art director Conny Marinos and set decorator Peter Gurski were tasked to design the Season 10 finale episode entitled “Jack’s Big Gay Wedding.” They ventured into building brand new sets that are very unconventional to the traditional Will & Grace brand within the half-hour program. These constructed sets mirrored that of an airport with a check in section, waiting area, gate entrance, a gift shop, a bar, and a wedding ceremony.
The process for this particular episode took an alternative approach in designing the set. “While we read the script, I have to acknowledge the pacing, how many pages we are in when something is happening, and its relationship to the next bit. In terms of the production design, a lot of it has to do with movement because of how our actors had to interact with their stories. We started at one end and things occur going in the other direction. The story was linear and so was this set.”
“A lot of it is just rational decisions regarding scenery and the storytelling. It’s very fluid but we’re not all over the place, we moved in one direction. There were other ways of getting in the set in these diagonal hallways to make the set look much bigger than it was like a scale of what we hope suggests a real airport. Then at the end of the episode we end up having a reception area in the airport bar and our cast breaks out into a little musical number,” described the production designer.
In doing this unaccustomed method of production design, it came with some challenges. Rovello expounded, “Our biggest challenge was the airport set. It’s a New York airport, we’re not specific which one. The challenge is the fact that we’re on a stage and our stage is a finite size. We had a scene in Will’s apartment that we had to pre-shoot and then we struck the entire stage because our airport set was 110ft long; which is extraordinary long for a sitcom set.”
“We decided to do something that long because we had cameras following our actors walk and talk. But even more so, we had a scene where Jack is in a cart and we really wanted to see him blow right past the cameras with some speed, and to do, we needed some length.”
The way these immaculate sets were constructed and built was something the art director had to thoroughly consider. Marinos detailed, “This was an all-new build. I did the set design for this, so I did all the drawings. I hired a graphic artist to produce some of the products that we needed as far as logos and signage for gate and directional arrows, what we needed for our set, and in set direction as far as what gates to go to and where the actors are going to be heading towards in the scene.” The production designer added, “Conny is constantly answering construction questions because it was very specific to action.”
The set decorations and pieces embraced so much detail in each of the designed set. “There’s a lot of airport furniture that’s available for rental at some of the prop houses. We had a souvenir shop and had to create this wedding out of New York for souvenirs, we produced a couple of souvenirs. Then worked with the New York office and the New York State for Tourism to provide us with actual posters and graphics that we could work in to our signage and to our souvenir shop,” said Gurski.
“Peter created a lot of product that we really wanted to drive home the Big Apple because that became our principal decoration of the wedding and was a New York icon; one was the big apple and another was the Statue of Liberty,” commended the production designer.
This season finale is very special and inimitable from other Will & Grace episodes due to the magnitude of the sets. “We often put in sets that are very layered, whether it’s upscale or the other way of very distressed. What’s special about this one, is the size of it. It’s enormous, 110ft for a sitcom, and takes up pretty much our entire stage. This one for us was different because our worlds are usually very highly specific New York interiors and this is an airport.”
“What makes us distinct is that we build our universe. Everything that you see; we build, we dress, we do everything from a blank stage to camera. We have to build everything. Everything was absolutely from zero,” Rovello accentuated.
The trio production design team has previously won the 2018 Art Directors Guild Award as a cohesive unit for their work on Will & Grace: “11 Years Later” and “A Gay Olde Christmas.” Production designer Glenda Rovello is a 4-time Primetime Emmy award winner, art director Conny Marinos being a 2-time Primetime Emmy contender, and set decorator Peter Gurski a dual Daytime/Primetime Emmy candidate.
The elaborate production design in “Jack’s Big Gay Wedding” presents the 2nd time all three uniformly together are nominated for an Emmy in the category of ‘Production Design for a Half-Hour Narrative Program.’