Echo Kellum as Noah
Echo Kellum as Noah, Ashleigh Morghan as Simone and Ian Owens as Courtney
Monique Dias's Mind for Design
The production designer for NBC's Grand Crew discusses the inspirations and challenges behind season two's carefully curated look.
"A lot of people think design is picking out a cute chair or painting a wall," says Monique Dias, production designer for NBC's Grand Crew. "But it's about taking who a character is and figuring out what their world would look like — and that's not always pretty, clean or perfect."
Grand Crew, which returns to NBC for its second season on March 3, is a single-camera comedy starring Echo Kellum, Nicole Byer, Justin Cunningham, Aaron Jennings, Carl Tart and Grasie Mercedes as a group of thirty-something Black friends in Los Angeles navigating relationships, careers and the city's infamous traffic.
"I grew up with the Black side of my family," says Dias, who's half Cape Verdean. "One of the original appeals of the show for me was the opening story in season one about how Black men are allowed to be all sorts of things, not just stereotypes."
She felt especially connected to Nicole Byer's character Nicky, who is very playful and vibrant. "Her house in particular was my baby. I just wanted to do her justice and make it bold and bright."
To help Dias come out of her shell as a kid, her parents put her in theater, and she fell in love with the backstage work. That love and passion has translated into an eclectic portfolio which includes Angelyne, Gentefied and Modern Family, the last of which she worked on as an art department assistant. "I've just gotten on bigger and bigger things, and the doors have opened more. Grand Crew is definitely one of the biggest things I've done as a production designer."
With bigger projects come more challenges, like creating an LA-centric design in a city that's not as discernible as Sex and the City's New York. "We tried to encourage more moments to go outside and see L.A. And when we were inside, we tried to be really cognizant about what's outside the windows."
She's had her share of artist's block when it comes to keeping scenes fresh, but she credits "the beauty of having a team," in helping to move past creative hurdles.
Dias also thrives on challenges if it means doing what she loves. "I'm a huge fantasy nerd!" she says. "I would love to do some big, period, over-the-top builds. I want to do stuff that makes me scared it's so big!"