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HomeCraftsCostume DesignThey Cloned Tyrone Costume Designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuck Is Ready For What's Next

They Cloned Tyrone Costume Designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuck Is Ready For What’s Next

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Teyonah Parris as Yo-Yo, Jamie Foxx as Slick Charles and John Boyega as Fontaine in They Cloned Tyrone. (Credit: Parrish Lewis/Netflix)

They Cloned Tyrone is a movie bursting with personality. Juel Taylor‘s film is packed with references and love for genre — but it’s still a fresh, original vision from a promising filmmaker. The title of the movie tells the audience everything they need to know about the sci-fi comedy before streaming it, but in short, it’s a detective story starring Teyonah Parris, Jamie Foxx, and John Boyega.

The three actors look simply fantastic in the movie, in large part thanks to costume designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuck. The beloved costume designer is behind such films as GloryWhite Men Can’t JumpDetroit, and One Night in Miami…, not to mention the pilot of The Wire. Later this year, we’ll see her work on the big screen with The Color Purple.

Recently, Jamison-Tanchuck took the time to speak with Below the Line about her fun, vibrant and just plain ‘ol cool costumes in They Cloned Tyrone.

Below the Line: The movie has a timeless, almost Twilight Zone effect to it at times. Was that a part of the intention?

Francine Jamison-Tanchuck: I think it was. The director and I both were really borrowing from past eras of filmmaking, costumes, and creativity. I think it has a lot of that going on. Juel seems to really gravitate a lot towards the ’70s look, and I borrowed a lot of that look for Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx). 

BTL: Where did you begin with Slick Charles? He looks fantastic.

Jamison-Tanchuck: I enjoyed the whole process of it, Jack. With Slick Charles, many of his outfits were from start to finish, from sketch to finish. He had one leisure suit that really was from the ‘70s era, but a lot of his outfits were built and made. And Yo-Yo, the yellow boots, that was something I saw on an ad or something and I really, really loved them, and Teyonah was such a hero and so brave to wear those boots a lot [laughs].

BTL: [laughs] The actors really own the costumes. Were they just always game?

Jamison-Tanchuck: They all were just so open and ready and just wanted to have the character in whatever I brought to them and whatever we decided. They were just a wonderful group of actors willing to see where the character was going. Many times modest actors will say that they don’t know where they’re going with the character until they’re in the costume. So yeah, I feel very good about that.

They Cloned Tyrone costume
John Boyega as Fontaine and Jamie Foxx as Slick Charles in They Cloned Tyrone (Credit: Netflix)

BTL: You worked with Jamie Foxx before. Does that make your job easier when you’ve gone through the process with an actor before, in helping them build a character?

Jamison-Tanchuck: Yes, I think so. I’ve worked with Jamie before and John Boyega. The two films that I’ve worked with him in the past, they were very dramatic, challenging, heartbreaking films and with this one, They Cloned Tyrone, I think it gave all of us a chance to have some comedy come in and really go over the top if we wanted to. Juel was very open to the ideas and very much wanted to see where we were going with the characters, where I was going with the characters.

BTL: You said you can go over the top, but could you have gone too over the top? The story really allowed or called for that, right?

Jamison-Tanchuck: Yeah, it really did. For me, I don’t want the costume to overtake the character. I want all of it to be working together. So, that is one aspect when I pick and choose fabrics and costumes and just how they work together is that they’re working to enhance the actor, the character, and not overtake the character. So that’s another aspect that I really like when I am creating the costumes.

BTL: A good example of them coming together is when you see them in the elevator. How did you want them to be a team as well as individualistic in their costumes?

Jamison-Tanchuck: Juel and I really sat down and started going over each character and what the character was for him and what aspect that we can work with within the costumes. And then I just really wanted to give my input, of course, and my ideas and showing mood boards and all of these things so we can see where we’re going with our three heroes. I just felt that when I saw them all in the elevator, that was such a moment. They are all individuals, but they all seem to come together as well. You know, it’s not like they’re in different movies or in a different film. They’re a unit. 

BTL: You can see a lot of influences in this movie. Being a big film buff, did you have any references early on for yourself? 

Jamison-Tanchuck: I really drew from black exploitation films. This is what they were called, but I call them original films back in the ’70s, like Super Fly and those kinds of films, the original Shaft. It’s just something about how they were really portrayed, and even looking back for Yo-Yo’s character, Yo-Yo was pretty much a fighter. And so, I like some of the things that I drew from certain black women, hero characters back in the ’70s It really inspired me for their outfits because they just, to me, have a strength, and I wanted to show that with Yo-Yo and a bit with Biddy (Tamberla Perry) as well. 

BTL: Did you also ever find yourself referencing 1950s sci-fi movies for the second half of the film?

Jamison-Tanchuck: With Juel, I feel that many times when you are going back in certain eras, you look at the sometimes comical way of it, since it was a comedy. I like borrowing something from those eras because they were also original for the times. They were trying to accomplish something for the times that they were made.

I just wanted to borrow a certain look of it and also really pair it with what is going on in modern-day as well. I think it just gives a certain creative look, and I was very pleased with how it all turned out. The colors and the textures are another thing that I wanted to go for.

BTL: Which colors and textures did you have in mind?

Jamison-Tanchuck: The colors and textures, especially the burgundies of Slick Charles and the yellows for Yo-Yo and Biddy (Tamberla Perry) and her pink little furry jackets, I love the idea of all of them having their own individuality, but at the same time, they were of the neighborhood. They were trying to protect their neighborhood and their way of living in their neighborhood.

They Cloned Tyrone costume
Jamie Foxx as Slick Charles in They Cloned Tyrone (Credit: Parrish Lewis/Netflix)

BTL: You have a lot of extras creating that sense of community in that neighborhood. What did you want to achieve with the background actors? 

Jamison-Tanchuck: For the extras casting, letting them know and giving them mood boards, again, to see where they could dress and go in their closets and see if this is what they have. But we also had a lot of stock as well, so if someone didn’t come in the way that I thought, “We can go a little better.” We would just redress or add to their outfit.

Another aspect was the color palette. We just wanted to make sure that what the background was wearing was not overtaking the foreground. Even with the foreground, our main actors, we ensured they weren’t in a movie alone by themselves. Everything had to balance. That’s what I also like about seeing the idea of the costumes or where we’re going with the film and just trying to give it a balance, so it looks as though everyone is in the same movie.

BTL: You’ve had some incredible mentors in your career, like Edith Head (Roman Holiday). What words of advice or mentorship still come to mind when your working? 

Jamison-Tanchuck: I had wonderful mentors. One particular piece of advice from Ms. Edith was, “Do not be afraid to really use your gifting and go for what you want to do. You can always bring things back in, but do not be afraid to take the chance.” There was also Ann Roth (Silkwood), another mentor of mine, and Aggie Rodgers (The Color Purple), and another dear friend and mentor of mine, Violet Jones-Faison (Coming to America), who has been retired for a while. These are people have been just an amazing influence on my career. We all share a gift and a willingness to be creative; that’s what we have to be as artists.

It’s trying to have a look. You are not going to stop until you feel that look is there. There are times I have my little booklet or a sketch booklet on a nightstand or something near my bed, and if I wake up in the middle of the night and I am thinking of ideas, when I’m on a film, that’s something that I feel and have to do.

I don’t think that it can really always be taught. You have to have a passion for what you really do. It’s not about looking forward to this award or that accolade or any of this, which is not for me. It could be for other people, and that’s good, but for me, it’s all about the art of it. It’s all about the art of costume design and filmmaking, and that’s what drives me most of all.

BTL: I think a takeaway there is the more experience you get, the more curious you should be. 

Jamison-Tanchuck: Yes, indeed. Every film that I have worked on, I approach it with a newness, like not bringing what I did before, but something original, something that I want to do that maybe has not been done.

They Cloned Tyrone costume
One Night in Miami… cast (Credit: Amazon Prime)

BTL: Your career also has some beautiful full-circle moments. You once worked with Jim Brown, and then you got to do costume design for Jim Brown in One Night in Miami…, and then for The Color Purple, you worked as a costume advisor [on the original film] and now you’re the costume designer on the upcoming version. Obviously, that’s hard work and creativity paying off, but are you someone that believes in fate as a part of a creative career as well?

Jamison-Tanchuck: Maybe. I think that I have been divinely led through this industry. It has been a career that has just been a journey. It has been a wonderful journey of things that have not gone the way that I felt they should, but in the long run, they end up so much more rewarding. The people that I have met and have been poured into my career and my creativity, I really have to look back on, and then look forward to and see what else is in store, what else I can put my hand to, and see how it’s going to turn out. So, I like that aspect of it. I like the “what’s next” thing that is upon us.

BTL: Always look forward. Before I let you go, when I looked at your credits again and saw Boomerang, my mind immediately went to Eartha Kitt, who’s still such an inspiring artist. 

Jamison-Tanchuck: Oh, I love her. She was an amazing woman and everything was for her. Everything had to be built from sketch to finish. Even her corsets.

BTL: I read a book of hers recently where she wrote that in creative meetings, she would physically stretch, almost to stretch the mind.

Jamison-Tanchuck: Yes. I think that has to happen—stretching your mind. Sometimes I feel that, oh, I don’t know if I can go there, but as people in the arts, stretching your mind is something so important because you wonder how you… it’s hard to explain, but you know that when it’s there, when you have that finished product or that product that you’re looking at on screen. Sometimes I can see things on screen that only I feel, “Oh, why did I do that? What was I thinking?” But a lot of times, from my mentors Edith and Anne, that’s what keeps us all going.

BTL: Francine, thank you so much for your time.

Jamison-Tanchuck: Thank you, thank you so much. I thank you guys. I’m really happy that They Cloned Tyrone is being received so well.

They Cloned Tyrone is now available to stream on Netflix. 

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