DGC Ontario Production Designer Arv Greywal designed Season 2 of DGC Ontario Production The Boys, available to stream Friday on Amazon Prime. We caught up with Arv to chat about how he got involved with The Boys, his favourite sets from the show and all the amazing talent Toronto has to offer.
How did you become involved in The Boys?
In 2015, when I was only doing features and pilots directed by feature film Directors, I was asked to design the pilot for a new NBC show Timeless, from creators Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit, S.W.A.T.), directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent). They asked me to deliver the biggest show possible including two time machines, the Hindenburg and 1937 New York. I suppose I fulfilled their mandate (and mine) and on the last day of the shoot they asked me to do the series, should it get picked up. With unimaginable hubris, I responded with something like, “I don’t really do TV.” Film snob!
Well, of course, I didn’t imagine the streaming tsunami coming our way; I did nothing but really interesting TV for the next 3 years that followed.
In 2018, Eric asked me to do his new series The Boys. At the time I was in Spain, working on Genius: Picasso and even though I desperately wanted to do it (I had cursory knowledge of the audacious graphic novel), it would have meant leaving Picasso early, something I didn’t want to do (it was too much fun to leave behind) and something I’ve never done in my career. I reluctantly had to pass and the job went to the very talented David Blass.
When Season 2 came around, I was asked again and this time I was available and very happy to design the show. We’re now in prep for Season 3.
Taking over from Season 1 Production Designer David Blass, can you talk more about how you’ve put your creative stamp on the series?
David did a fabulous job pulling Season 1 together, and when I took over he was very gracious about relaying his experiences regarding the show and gave me quite an insight into how I would handle the then upcoming season.
Our producer sent me screeners and after I studied them for a while, I had a conversation with Eric Kripke where we spoke about what we could do to make the show deeper (bigger is always tacitly assumed) for the upcoming season, get more into the characters’ mindset and physically manifest this in their everyday life, in their personal lives, in the environment surrounding them and in the way they interact with each other. I think people who follow the show are going to be genuinely impressed by the way we achieved this.
I also asked Eric for permission to re-envision the standing sets — to, as you say, put my creative stamp on them. I have to pause here to tell you what a collaborative showrunner Eric Kripke is. He actually wrote the changes we discussed to the sets into the action in the scripts. I can’t say any more without spoiling the surprises. Let’s just say what happened was a testament to Eric’s level of confidence in my ability and his own smarts in figuring out how to refresh the look of the show within the story we’re depicting.
What do you love most about working in Toronto/GTA?
Only 2 of my last 6 projects have been in Toronto and it’s great to come back and see the influx of amazing talent the last few years have brought about in our industry. Interestingly, even when I was regularly working in the city, during my Set Design and Art Direction career, I only worked with a fairly limited group of people.
The city has such depth though, that there are many teams you don’t necessarily encounter who are masterful at what they do. Case in point is Ron Stefaniuk and his team. Ron’s been working in the film industry for 30 years now and I’ve been doing it for 25 years and we only just met on The Boys S2. Ron and his new-to-the-industry gang of artisans created Lucy the whale in the set photo shown here. Their work was sheer genius and to know that this brilliance exists here and that there are likely many more people you have yet to meet who can deliver that kind of expertise is really wonderful.
What is your favourite set from The Boys Season 2?
It’s hard to pick a favourite when you’ve created around a couple of hundred of them over the course of the 8 episodes. One that stood out consistently was the Boys’ hideout this season. It resonated with, and was singularly remarked upon, by each of the 8 Directors we had. That’s very gratifying because it was a culmination of what you ideally want in a set. It spoke of the Boys’ psyche at that moment in their lives; it not only accommodated the story but reflected their personal, individual stories, and it never became dull over the 8 episodes that we see it in. Every Director had lots of places to go to to make that space fit their vision. We were able to imbue it with some lighting and architectural elements very specific to New York, and generate life (light and movement) in the set through some effective work by the grips and electrics. It really pulled together the best elements of Set Design, Set Dressing, Graphics and Props.
Where did you take inspiration from for designing The Boys?
Ideally, the inspiration for any project starts long before you’ve even heard of it. You constantly feed your creative brain, expand your knowledge base, examine your aspirations, acknowledge your experiences and, I know this sounds flighty, but, essentially try to stay within a state of perpetual, cultural luminosity. When you get on a project, you draw from this artistic well; this is where the 1% of Edison’s adage hopefully emerges from. The rest is all hard work. You find agency in the project, solve problems, catch a spark from the story on the written page, immerse yourself in the research, take into account the requirements of blocking, lighting, stunts, SPFX, and entrust your Art Department teams to flesh out your ideas.
Your measure of personal success is easily gauged. If you’re still as excited to go to work tomorrow as you were when you started 25 years ago, then you’re inspired.