Filming Netflix’s edgy new high school dramedy “Daybreak” in Albuquerque, N.M., for months, production designer Laurel Bergman started worrying that she was getting Stockholm Syndrome.
With the story set in Glendale, “we began to see [New Mexico] as the San Fernando Valley — in our imaginations, hearts and budget,” Bergman said with a laugh.
To recenter her visual compass, Bergman — an industry veteran who has worked on an eclectic slate that includes “The Revenant” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events” — spent hours virtually driving through Glendale on her phone’s Google Street View function.
Slated to debut Thursday, the “Mad Max”-meets-“Ferris Bueller” series based on a graphic novel by Brian Ralph centers on average Glendale High students transformed into hardcore survivalists in the wake of a nuclear blast.
Cannibalism, cursing and unlikely friendships ensue.
At the heart of the brutal whirlwind is 17-year-old Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford), who is searching for his missing girlfriend, Sam Dean (Sophie Simnett), as he fights to stay alive among teen cliques-turned-gangs and adults-turned-zombies that spring up after the cataclysm.
Among a cast of kooky supporting characters, Eli Cardashyan, played by Glendale native Gregory Kasyan, takes over the Glendale Galleria after a lifetime of subsisting on knock-offs.
While the American Southwest might not be an obvious stand-in for SoCal, Bergman said filming there offered aesthetic advantages to the actual Jewel City.
In the dead of winter, Albuquerque “really came with a look that I like to call ‘pre-poc’,” Bergman said. “It was already destroyed and ready to go.”
To lighten the endemic grim, pop colors frequently emerge among the sand and tumbleweeds.
Show co-creator Brad Peyton, who has roots in animation, wanted a touch of Marvel amid the obvious “Mad Max,” Bergman said.
However, some literal obstacles emerged. She had to make sure the camera dodged instant giveaways, including the ubiquitous Southwest-style architecture.
Other things couldn’t be avoided — like the region’s Sandia Mountains.
There were also financial advantages. New Mexico recently reimplemented tax breaks for film and TV shoots, which have lured many crews seeking cheaper pastures, according to Bergman.
The goal was always to capture Glendale’s “essence,” not attempt an exact replica, said Bergman, who has worked primarily in film and TV art departments for more than 20 years.
Ample establishing signs and Kardashian puns remind the viewers of where they are supposed to be mentally, if not literally.
In one scene, wonky co-stars Wesley Fists (Austin Crute) and Angelica (Alyvia Alyn Lind) rattle off supposed pharmacies around the city, like “the Rite Aid on Brand.”
No matter that the nearest Rite Aid is actually on Pacific Avenue; Glendalians will savor hearing their main drag referenced on-screen.
And then there are the folks in the 199 other countries where the show will be available.
“A lot of people who don’t know about Glendale should be knowing about Glendale sometime soon,” as Kasyan put it in a recent interview.
Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.