Heather Pain tells IndieWire how to come up with distinctive looks for an age-old ensemble that will never change clothes.
In the CBS comedy “Ghosts”, young couple Samantha (Rose McIver) and Joe (Utkarsh Ambudkar) inherit a decaying country estate and decide to convert it into a bed and breakfast – the only problem is that it is inhabited by the spirits of all the people who have died on the property over the past centuries. The eclectic cast of ghosts includes a Prohibition-era crooner (Danielle Pinnock), a 1700s militiaman (Brandon Scott Jones), a 60s flower child (Sheila Carrasco), a 90s yuppie (Asher Grodman ), a sarcastic member of the Lenape tribe of the 1500s (Román Zaragoza), and others who provided a wealth of opportunities for Heather Pain, who designed the costume for the series pilot.
They also provided major challenges, given that each character – like their counterparts in the series’ UK predecessor – would wear the costume Pain designed for them for the duration of the series. “I had to ask myself, ‘How do you create characters that are going to stand out over time?'” Pain told IndieWire. “You have to tell the story, but you also think about the different scenarios that the writers might come up with later. What if the characters came out? How can we reproduce the costumes if they have stunts? »
Pain’s first step was rigorous research, as showrunners Joe Port and Joe Wiseman wanted each character to be true to their time period. For Carrasco and Pinnock’s characters, respectively, that meant turning to inspirations like Janis Joplin and Bessie Smith. “I looked at what they were wearing and tried to figure out what was in their clothes that would stick in someone’s mind, and then I approached my characters that way,” said said Pain. “What would be iconic for that person?” In the case of Pinnock’s Alberta, that meant pearls, feathers and dazzling colors; as the aptly named flower, Carrasco is dressed in a macrame top, peasant skirt, and tinted glasses.
For many ghosts, Pain had photographic reference points, but for characters whose deaths were older, she had to work to maintain authenticity. “Obviously there were no cameras in the days of the Lenape character. [Sasappis]said Pain, “so I had to really dig deep. I reached out to a few different tribes in Oklahoma to ask them questions, read a plethora of books, and spoke to Jacqueline West, who designed the costumes for “The New World.” It was difficult to create this character for television, because everything had to be natural fabric – there was no weaving in those days – and sometimes they wore very little clothing.
Because so many scenes in “Ghosts” revolve around ensemble scenes with spirits, Pain had to be careful not only to design costumes that suited each character, but that worked in conjunction with each other on screen. , no matter who was in the frame. “Whenever I start working on a costume, I always look at the production design,” she said. “What’s the setting? Where are they going to be? In this case, the house was really traditional with dark wood and deep earth tones. This meant that Pain could use certain colors to make characters like Hetty, the lady of the mansion, against her surroundings. “Hetty was in teal, and then it was important for me to string that together with Alberta and also make her really strong. I came to her color by playing with the Hetty’s costume, then I wanted Flower’s dress to be a pattern with colors that unite everyone.
The show’s protagonists, Samantha and Joe, required a more conventional contemporary approach, but Pain was no less rigorous in her thought process regarding these characters than she was with their deceased housemates. For Joe, his starting point was his career as a chef. “When you look at people in general, I often get the impression that regardless of their profession, their appearance is standard,” Pain said. “A banker is going to dress differently than a florist…it’s almost like everyone has some sort of uniform. So for Joe, I looked at different chefs and what they wore and tried to give him clothes that would make him more laid back and comfortable. Pain added that for all of her characters she creates a specific color palette, both to help differentiate the actors from each other and because “in life people tend to stick to certain colors. “.
Ultimately, Pain felt that the demands of the “Ghosts” pilot connected her with the feelings that had inspired her to design costumes in the first place. “When you think of the movies you love, whether it’s ‘Badlands’ or ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘Pretty in Pink,’ you look at what someone is wearing and that’s their character,” she said. . “It’s been so integral to shaping who they are. This show was closer to one of those feature films in terms of the richness of how it was shot and the opportunities it offered – it wasn’t your ordinary contemporary attire, where you’re just go shopping. It was a lot of research and a lot of in-depth research, which was different from what I had been doing for the past two years, and that really got me excited. As a costume designer, you always want to push yourself to do new things.