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Barry Costume Designer Tiffany White Stanton Turned Guillermo del Toro Into a Dapper Gangster

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Barry costume
Guillermo del Toro in Barry (HBO)

There were many delights in the fourth and final season of HBO’s Barry. The comedy continued its descent into chaos and loneliness, took huge narrative swings, and still kept its sense of humor intact. For example, look no further than the gloriously fun cameo from filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, a man who deserves an Emmy for his role as a dapper gangster.

He looked dynamite on the show, thanks to costume designer Tiffany White Stanton.

Star and director Bill Hader‘s camera is calm and cool throughout season four, which often allows the work of others, such as Stanton, to shine. She had to stay in touch with the past of Barry, as well as embrace change with an unexpected time jump that saw characters ultimately failing to reinvent themselves. Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan), for example, can’t fully escape his past, not even his fashion past.

Recently, Stanton took the time to talk to us about the standout costumes from the final season of Barry.

Below-the-Line: It’s so fitting that the movie Barry and Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) get based on their lives looks like crap.

Tiffany White Stanton: It’s like Oscar bait and completely wrong. 

BTL: How was it designing costumes for a movie that isn’t good quality within the show? 

Stanton: Right? It’s so funny, Barry has this amazing element where it can do movies within a movie. We did that with Mega Girls, that serious blockbuster movie. Those costumes had to look like real authentic superhero costumes. The movie at the end, it was fun to encapsulate all four seasons in 10 minutes and take things that are truthful for the character. It was taking truths and then also taking untruths and capitalizing on it a bit more to make it more heightened and more fun for the audience.

BTL: Noho Hank, in particular, looks fantastic in the finale, especially his green suit. Where’d that come from?

Stanton: When I first started talking to Bill about the time jump about Noho Hank, he made an offhand comment like, “I think he should be in suits.” I stood still for a minute, just wide-eyed, like deer in the headlights. “Noho hank suits?” I started to consider Noho Hank as a legit businessman. It has to be a finely tailored, beautiful-looking suit, but they must have a quirkiness to it. Like, that color green or even the color white are just so over the top that. Real businessmen would never wear those colors. 

Anthony, bless him, he could really pull off anything. But I wanted to, with his shirts, keep him as Noho Hank. We usually get them from this brand, Mondo, that has a real eastern European feel and color to it. Most of his shirts still feel like Noho Hank, but they have a suit on top of it. 

Even when I first told Anthony it’s gonna be suits, he also was like, “What? I don’t know if Hank can wear suits.” I was like, “Don’t worry, buddy. It’s gonna be great.” I sent him the board of my ideas, and he just sent back the clapping emoji. I knew he was going to be game.

BTL: Why did he originally say Hank can’t wear a suit?

Stanton: I think he was thinking of a Wall Street broker, like a navy blue pinstripe thing. I think he thought it was gonna be too much like a suit and tie. When people normally say suits, they don’t think of a bright green suit with a shirt unbuttoned to your navel [laughs].

Barry casting
Anthony Carrigan as Noho Hank (HBO/Merrick Morton)

BTL: Bill Hader has talked a lot about his love of French and Japanese crime movies, and how they’ve influenced him as a storyteller. Did you two have any specific references? 

Stanton: You know what I wish that we had those conversations. We had one real talk briefly about Paris, Texas. I really looked at that movie a lot, for Sally’s inspiration. I know Bill is a huge cinefile, but our costume conversations really came from a real life place, looking at real people and things like that. We didn’t really talk about a lot of films, that just wasn’t our relationship. 

BTL: One of the best people to talk to about movies is Guillermo del Toro. For his brief role, did you two talk about movies? 

Stanton: It’s so funny because he’s not usually inside a fitting room, that’s not his usual place. He actually found the process of going through a fitting and looking at the clothes and all that really fascinating and fun. I told him I wanted to do a hat for him through his assistant. We were emailing back and forth and, and he said, “I appreciate you, but no hat will ever fit me. It never looks good. You don’t have to bother with a hat.” I said, “I’m gonna do a hat.” We had a custom made hat for him that he put it on and he was like, “Oh my God, this is beautiful.” 

In the end, he took the hat with him. He loved the way it looked so much on him. I really wanted to go old school style with him, like old 1930s Mexican gangster style. He really wanted to do that, so that’s what we ended up doing for him. He loved it. The cane was his, that he brought.

BTL: Of course it was his. There’s a lot of different cultures of gangs in the final season of Barry. Even though the show is heightened, how much research did you do?

Stanton: Barry does have a very heightened feel to it, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. You know, there are very, very serious Guatemalan gangs who have tattoos all over their face and are very, very scary. I just took elements from that and then I would mix it with something else. So, the Guatemalan culture has native embroidery and a lot of earthy tones and leathers and things like that. I mixed that in with some gangster feel. 

Barry casting
Stephen Root in Barry ((Merrick Morton/HBO)

BTL: How about the Raven’s gang?

Stanton: With Raven Gang, that was so fun to do. I thought of Fuchs as collecting these criminals in his life over years and years of him being in prison. I wanted to make them all different types of criminal characters. 

BTL: In the finale, you score such a big laugh with the Raven’s gang in a wide shot. Did you know they were going to shot that way for comedic effect?

Stanton: No, we just knew a lot of those guys are stunt guys that would end up being in the eighth episode. Bill likes to have stunt guys in there mixed with character actors. I just did every single one, and I always make sure everybody looks 100% on camera. So when they were like, “Let’s do a wide,” I was like, “Oh my gosh, we never get this in TV shows.” I was so excited when I was behind the camera. 

BTL: How’d you want to show Barry’s growth or lack of growth in the time jump? I mean, maybe because Bill Hader is a giant, but even with his humble attire, he looks like a serial killer as “reformed” Barry.

Stanton: The funny thing is, you’re right. I mean, he has a certain look. Also, Barry has a certain bravado when he stands, right? The idea behind Barry’s costume was, what would Barry as a little kid remember about Oklahoma growing up? He’s trying to emulate those dads. They needed to be classic but still modern. He is not shopping in thrift stores or anything; he is shopping online and getting things mailed to him.

Everything had to look new because they’re not going anywhere. They don’t have any life. Their life is the house. And so even with [Barry’s son] John, he has clothes that are too big for him, too small for him, and all over the place because they’re not taking him out shopping when it’s appropriate. They’re getting stuff mailed from Amazon whenever he needs a new shirt. 

Barry costume
Bill Hader in Barry (Merrick Morton/HBO)

BTL: How important is contrast to you as a costume designer? For example, in the final standoff between Hank and the Raven, they just look like polar opposites.

Stanton: It’s very important. When you have a big battle, you want the audience to be able to understand what’s happening even without the camera being right on top of something. And so for me, the silhouette and color was a big way to tell that story, because I also didn’t know how it was gonna be shot. I didn’t know they were gonna be standing. Because of that I wanted to make sure that all of the Noho Hank’s guys looked like they were in crazy business suits, their silhouette so different than Fuchs’ guys, who were dirty and dark and more murderous. 

BTL: For that shootout, did you also talk to the stunt coordinator about what was best for the stuntmen to move in action?

Stanton: Absolutely. When a stunt man comes in, the first thing I always ask them is, “Do you know what stunt you’re doing?” Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but I did especially talk to Wade [Allen], the stunt coordinator, in a detail about the stunts. You know, some were gonna fly and had to have wires and holes punched into their costumes.

We had a person who had his leg blown off, so we had to work with that gag to get the pants to rip with the foot so it could fly across the room. All of that is coordination with the stunt coordinator, as well as the stuntmen themselves. They’re all so knowledgeable and most of the time they’re very direct and say, “This will work or this won’t work.” They are lengthy conversations. 

BTL: Is it a fun or strange day at work when you ask yourself, “Hmm, which outfit will go best with intestines hanging out of a man?”

Stanton: [laughs] Yeah. It’s amazing they did that practically. Again, the hair and makeup and visual effects team, it was incredible that day. Yeah, it was funny to think about. Anthony and I knew we were going with a white suit. It is so old school gangster to have a white suit, but then also to see blood and have that be so dramatic, I just loved that juxtaposition. You do think about that, what is gonna show blood the most? What is gonna show the intestines the most?

The fourth and final season of Barry is now available to stream on Max.

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