Dressing CBS's Jericho

From a costume designer’s perspective, Jericho was a big, ambitious TV show. “The sheer volume of clothes coming in and out is the biggest I’ve ever done,” said costume designer Nicole Gorsuch, who has also designed TV shows VIP and Home Improvement.
“When I first saw the pilot and read the script,” said Gorsuch, “I got an inkling for what I was committing to. But as the season progressed, it got even bigger.” Those first days on the job she remembers scouring shopping malls and Target stores with key costumer Leah Katznelson, returning to the set each day with their cars full of costumes for the show.
According to Scott O’Leary, the show’s costume supervisor, there are 30 principals and regulars on set per episode, which translates to 150 to 200 background artists. “Sometimes we have that many background artists in a day,” he said.
“When you find people you work with effortlessly, it really saves time on the set,” said Gorsuch. “The job would be stressful if I didn’t have such a great crew.”
Making the show’s star, Skeet Ulrich, and other principals and the army of background players look dirty and disheveled is part of the costume department’s responsibility. But last-minute changes can often throw them a curve ball. “We have the writers and executive producers here on set with us, which can also mean last-minute changes for the costume department. We have to be prepared for anything they want,” said O’Leary.
Jericho is making a surprise return to the CBS schedule next year. After being left off the network’s fall schedule, fans protested in large numbers. Execs at CBS finally relented and ordered seven episodes for midseason, which is good news for the crew. “We’re ready for another season,” said O’Leary, from the set, an actual constructed “town” of Jericho.
“Continuity is essential on this show,” says Kat Connelly, a costumer on the show. “I’m working on inserts today, which means I have to replicate exactly a costume that was worn several episodes ago or might be worn in a future episode. The Jericho scripts regularly incorporate flashbacks and flash forwards, so the pick-up shots are integral to the storyline.”
Amanda Riley, Jennifer Moore and Meredith Harris, set costumers, say all that organization is essential. They carry with them detailed binders that document and archive with digital pictures and copious notes exactly what was worn by each cast member, day player and background artist in every scene on each episode.
“With all the (fake) blood on the show, we really have to be detailed,” said Moore.
“A lot of the clothes we were able to acquire already distressed, but it’s up to us to make them look authentic,” said Riley, referring to Jericho’s “town under siege” storyline.
They rarely get to fit the actors in advance. “We just have to be sure we have the right sizes in the right costumes when they show up,” said Harris.
O’Leary makes a point of coordinating with casting so they don’t send him 40 men all the same size, for example. “That would be difficult,” he says. “We’re more likely to have an easier time of costuming that kind of volume of people if they come in a variety of sizes.”
“What we always keep in mind in our department,” said costume cutter and fitter Henry Po, “is that we’re here to carry out the vision of the writers, directors and producers. Costuming is not always or only about making people look good. It’s about being true to the show and to the writers’ vision.”

Written by Paige Donner

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