A Peek At GH’s New Swimming Pool Set
It’s bikini season in Port Charles, and the brand-new Metro Court rooftop pool set will be proof of that when it made its on-screen debut on July 15.
“The writers have been asking for a pool for years,” begins Production Designer Jennifer Elliott, who created the set along with her partner, Production Designer Andrew Evashchen. “It was always kind of on our radar, and then Frank [Valentini, executive producer] came in one day and just said, ‘We’re doing the pool!’ ”
The set was a first-of-its-kind challenge for the designers. Explains Evashchen, “We have one other set that uses a water tank, the pier. That is just deep enough to have people sort of get pulled out or fall in and do a little flailing about. Frank wanted to really make this as close to a functioning pool as possible and that created a lot of nuts-and-bolts practical challenges. Our studio is actually not on the ground floor, it’s on the second floor of our building, so when we do water tanks we need to focus on where it goes on our stage for structural reasons, and we also don’t want to build or design a set that’s so high off the ground that it becomes a problem for cameras. So there was, ‘Make the pool deep, don’t make the set too high, don’t make the walls too low so that cameras start shooting off the top of the set.’ I thought I had it all figured out until I showed the drawing to the shop and they said, ‘No, we can’t have it there, we need to drain the pool sometimes, there’s only one drain and it’s in the corner of the stage.’ There are all these crazy factors that come up, way beyond just the design.”
They were both relieved when Valentini assured them that the pool would be a permanent fixture on the studio floor for the season. Evashchen says, “We take sets in and out all the time and this one is quite cumbersome. Frank was really good about saying, ‘We’re going to put this thing up and leave it up for the summer,’ which was really appealing to us. Leaving it up means it’s not getting thrown on a truck and put in a warehouse, which reduces the wear and tear. In the original model, the pool was slightly L-shaped; it was 27 feet wide, 3 feet deep, so that’s a lot of volume of water. But eventually we will have to transport the pool when we put it away for winter, and we decided to just make it one long rectangle because we don’t want to put any pressure points on it when it’s being trucked or moved, and if it’s an odd shape, you can start to see leaks appearing.”
Liner Notes: The designers consulted with Executive Producer Frank Valentini before selecting the color of the pool liner, “Because that’s something you really can’t change; once it’s done, it’s done,” points out Elliott. Evaschen commissioned it from “a company that we’ve used before that sprays the backs of pickup trucks to seal them in a liner, so it’s a new use of an old product. It’s really good, watertight material.”
Open For Business: This towel station was not part of the original design, “but that was something that was really important to the directors, because they like the business of someone handing out towels and having an attendant,” Elliott explains. “I quickly went up to my warehouse, which has a lot of goodies in it, and grabbed this, which I’ve had in stock for probably 20 years. It happened to match the lounge chairs and then we built the bar on the other side of the pool to match.” Make Yourself Comfortable: The lighting, pillows and most of the furniture, including these loungers, come from Overstock, “because they’re affordable and they get here on time,” sums up Elliott. “There has actually been a shortage of chaise lounge chairs in the world, I think because of Covid and supply chains and everything. We originally had four and we thought, ‘Oh, that’s enough,’ but then the directors wanted to add two more, and we went back and ordered, and it was a nail-biter as to whether we would get them in time! By miracle, they came through.” The towels and other monogrammed elements on the set are from Mark & Graham. “We thought that was just kind of a fun element, so that was a surprise we had for Frank, these splashy towels. With all the people and the bodies in the pool — and the body makeup, which is something I didn’t think about — we do a lot of towel-laundering on this show!”
Pattern Play: These Overstock side tables came with a black top. “I had Scenic mimic a terrazzo look on them using paint, and we carried that through to the bar on the other side,” Elliott says.
Safe Passage: The aluminum railing was constructed in-house. “We found a few existing, modern pool railings that worked, but we couldn’t get it shipped in time, so I just drew it out and our metalworkers in the shop actually built it,” shares Evaschen.
The pair also took the directors’ needs into consideration before finalizing the 16-foot-high set. Elliott recalls, “When the directors first saw a rough outline of it in the shop, there was some concern about, ‘Is it too high?’ or is it too this or that? It has to be high enough for us to get the depth of the tank that we needed; that was something that Frank really wanted, that if people wanted to be immersed in it, they could be. He didn’t want it, you know, a foot deep or to look a little bit fake. So the directors took a pause to just sort of say, ‘Can we really do this?’ Luckily, the first shooting day, everything went really smoothly and they were able to do everything they needed to do and move around the pool. The only thing we had to adjust is that we made the surface of the pool [decking] a little too slick with the treatment that we had, so while we had a day off at the pool, we put down kind of an invisible grip on it so that nobody slips. We didn’t really realize what footwear people were going to be in and it turns out that most of the kids want to be barefoot by it, which is kind of fun. So we doubled back and put a little traction down.”
In terms of its aesthetics, some of the design was dictated by existing elements of the hotel, “to really suggest that this is another part of the Metro Court,” Evaschen notes. That includes the backdrop views of the Port Charles skyline. “About a year ago, we updated the view for the restaurant terrace. That was just a small crop of a larger image, and because we’re in the same hotel, I took a different perspective of the same view to connect it visually.”
Elliott took the lead on dressing and decorating the set and choosing its color scheme. “Frank left us tons of creative room to do our thing,” she praises. “He’s really our muse.” She was thrilled with his reaction when he saw the finished product. “Frank is a man of few words but he said, ‘This is the jewel in the crown of your sets,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is the highest compliment!’ ”
The actors gave rave reviews, as well. Grins Elliott, “Finola [Hughes, Anna] wanted to know where we got the lounge chairs and she just reported back that she bought some, so that was good. And when Laura [Wright, Carly] walked in, she was like, ‘Oh, my God!’ It’s her hotel, so I always like to get Carly’s feedback [laughs].”