'Second Act': Richard Hoover reveals the secrets of 'Manhattan's glass world' and 'earthy Queens' in JLo's comeback film

The contrasts are striking: While Manhattan floats, Queens is earthy, says legendary production designer Richard Hoover, who created the sets of JLo's 'Second Act'


                            'Second Act': Richard Hoover reveals the secrets of 'Manhattan's glass world' and 'earthy Queens' in JLo's comeback film

A second chance is the theme of Jennifer Lopez starrer 'Second Act'. Peter Segal, the director of brilliant comedies such as '50 First Dates', 'The Longest Yard', and 'Get Smart', wanted to showcase the life of a middle-aged woman, who gets an unexpected second shot at life, having been denied certain opportunities thus far leading her to live more or less, a double life.

While Segal’s direction and the acting prowess of stars such as Lopez, Milo Ventimiglia, Vanessa Hudgens, and Leah Remini make this division apparent, the responsibility of showing the clear distinction between these two worlds, is Richard Hoover.

Very broadly speaking, Manhattan, where JLo’s Maya Vargas conned her way into working, has a very glossy, glassy feel to it, while Queens, where Maya lives, has a more realistic, earthy feel to it.

"She had a second chance in that, in the city which was a glassy, floating world. And, in one sense that kind of suggests 'Oh my God, you made it. You got your corner office. You got your view over everybody'. And so, that second chance was with glass and floating and white in the dynamics of the city. So, we had locations that were way up in the air a lot of the time," explains Hoover to MEAWW regarding the Manhattan sets. 

Jennifer Lopez and Vanessa Hudgens in 'Second Act' (Photo Credit: Barry Wetcher; Motion Picture Artwork ©)
Jennifer Lopez and Vanessa Hudgens in 'Second Act' (Photo Credit: Barry Wetcher; Motion Picture Artwork ©)

Regarding Queens, he says, "The other second chance, where she finally goes home after she faces up to the fact that she is in a company where there is some lack of truth — she has to face up to that and decides to say I can't lie anymore, I got to go and she creates her own second chance in that regard."

He adds: "So that is visualized by rather warm and earthy and real exteriors and interiors and in a sense of the neighborhood and the community, which Manhattan's glass world doesn't have. It's surface there and it's earthy in Queens."

Many assume that when compared to huge, big-budget movies and sci-fi projects, building the sets for a rom-com would be simpler and while that may be true in the general sense, the dynamics of each set in every project is different.

"You are not necessarily creating the whole world like a sci-fi. You are kind of creating objects as well as realms that don't exist. This is more a study of temperature and tone and what might be called certain reality."

Hoover, who believes reality to be a suspect word, admits that rom-com sets are easier to build than sci-fi in that sense, however, technically speaking, all films are fantastical and physical. "They're not in one spot. So, I didn't find it easier. It's getting the temperature right — the tone, the color and all of that," he says. As for 'Second Act', all interiors had to be interpreted perfectly.

"The struggle really is that a lot of the housing [in Manhattan] is small so we had to go a little farther out to find an exterior where we could get some, because the small places are harder to shoot in. We build one big interior on stage."

In fact, one of the best aspects about 'Second Act', visually, is the imperfections. While many rom-coms make it seem like the lead is living in an IKEA showroom, Hoover and his team made sure that there was "something more" in the film. "In our story, we are showing real places as well. We don't interpret reality that was unless that story demanded it. It's not a showroom. It's not perfect," he says.

Hoover's brilliance can be seen in 'Second Act', set to release on December 21.