Hulu’s Reboot takes audiences behind the scenes of a phenomenon that’s becoming increasingly popular in today’s TV landscape — the revival series. From Sex and the City to Frasier, it seems like every ’90s hit is ripe for resurrection these days, and networks are looking to mine their IP just like movie studios do. While Reboot‘s show-within-a-show, Step Right Up, may not be real, it certainly feels like a show that might’ve been popular back then, which helps Reboot sell its own concept as it humorously explores what the point of a reboot truly is.
Outfitting the star-studded cast, which includes Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer, Johnny Knoxville, and Paul Reiser, was Costume Designer Reiko Schoenfeld, a sitcom veteran who has previously worked on How I Met Your Mother and Life in Pieces as well as many other series.
Below the Line recently spoke with Schoenfeld about her own favorite sitcoms growing up and how the actual feel of shooting on the lot is incorporated into Reboot’s storylines. She also discussed her experience on other network shows, from her first gig on JAG to her current stint on another sitcom, NBC’s Grand Crew, and explained how lucky she’s been to work with an overwhelmingly supportive group of people over the course of her career.
Below the Line: What sitcoms did you grow up watching?
Reiko Schoenfeld: Ooh, that’s a good question! I’ll start with this. I always wanted to watch Roseanne, and my parents would never let me. I always wanted to watch Rosanne, and I wanted to watch Married… with Children, but my parents were very strict with me. And I was not allowed to watch either one of those. So secretly, I’ve always been a fan of those, because I really did want to watch them, but I was a big fan of Full House and, [it was] not a sitcom, but I was a fan of Baywatch. But I’d say Full House was probably my favorite sitcom when I was younger.
BTL: I know that the original show in Reboot was supposed to be set in the early 2000s, and as someone who grew up in the early 2000s, I don’t think of that as a different era, although obviously there are some subtle differences. Can you share your take on that?
Schoenfeld: That’s so funny. You’re very right. I don’t even think about the early 2000s as that long ago, but then, when we do sit and reflect, it was a good 20 years ago. Even when I rewatch old episodes of How I Met Your Mother or some of the other previous shows I’ve worked on, it takes you back, because styles were different in 2005. Styles were different in 2006, even subtle differences like colors or [the] fit of clothing [were] very different. That’s what we tried to showcase when we do shoot the Step Right Up parts that were [in] the early 2000s, because you need quick pops. You need quick reads, and the colors and the fit of clothing help us showcase that as best we can.
BTL: Were the two different time periods what appealed to you most about working on this project?
Schoenfeld: This whole show appealed to me. At the helm is the wonderful Steve Levitan, who’s just sheer genius, and such a force, such a kind force. He and his writing staff really produced wonderful, funny episodes, and I just wanted and was thankful to be a part of it, because Jeff [Morton] and Danielle [Stokdyk], and our other executive producers… everybody comes from a place of authenticity and kindness, and our actors… it really is a wonderful group of people. I think we’re all just so happy that it’s having the welcome that we wanted it to [have]. It’s funny, man. I giggle when I watch it.
BTL: I know the show is set mostly in the present day, but then again, I imagine it’s harder to find costumes from 20 years ago, so do you feel like you’re splitting time between the two periods or spending more time on one than the other?
Schoenfeld: I think, for the most part, we focus on the current day. Steve and the writers did a great job of throwing a few current Step Right Up moments to show the behind-the-scenes and what show night on a multi-cam really looks like. We definitely did, in the pilot, more of the flashback Step Right Up to lay the groundwork for the storylines. But we do focus more on the current-day stories, mostly.
BTL: I’m thinking about some of the different characters where I feel like I notice their wardrobes more than others. I think that the most prominent are the “elderly” writers from a different era in the writers room.
Schoenfeld: I cannot tell you the affection I have for our “elderly” writers. Casting deserves all the credit in the world, because those writers and the young writers — those are my favorite scenes that we’ve shot. We are laughing out loud watching them do take after take. Their timing is impeccable, and we just really wanted to delineate, as best as we could, each of those characters. We wanted to give them the quirk that they were giving us, even Selma (Rose Abdoo), you probably can’t even notice, but it’s little nuances that we take time and effort to cultivate. Her jewelry is very specific. There’s a little pencil necklace that she wears. We really wanted to make sure each of those writers — the young, the old, everybody — in the writers’ room, was showcased in the best possible way we could with their clothing to help illustrate their wonderful characters.
BTL: Rachel Bloom’s character seems to lack self-confidence and her outfits seem to reflect that, but I don’t think that most people judge her the way that she thinks. How does that play into her costuming?
Schoenfeld: Rachel’s the best. We really just wanted that character to look comfortable. At the forefront of all the costumes and the show, in general, is that Steve really wanted that authenticity factor. He wanted it to show the realness of what it looks like to shoot behind-the-scenes on the Fox lot, shooting a multi-cam. With that comes the comfortability level of clothing. With that character specifically, in the writers’ room, Steve was like, ‘have you looked at the writers? Come take a look at what the writers are wearing, because they’re not dressed head-to-toe. They are comfortable, they are in hoodies.’ Finding the balance between what we wanted to show fashion-wise and having a happy medium between that and the comfort and realness… I think we landed pretty well on that.
BTL: And then you have someone like Timberly, who may be the only fashion-forward person in the entire series.
Schoenfeld: I think Timberly (Alyah Chanelle Scott) illustrates the youth factor that is current-day fashion. Thank goodness my team spans in age, so I was able to ask some of my younger co-workers, ‘what really is the cool factor now?’ In my mid-40s, I now lack that, I have to admit. Timberly was fun because we wanted to showcase her physique, showcase color. We did a lot of mixing high and low. We did a lot of Zara. But to juxtapose Timberly is Judy [Greer]’s character. Bree is chic in her own right. We didn’t really want to focus on current-day trends. We wanted to keep her sleek and elegant and timeless but still showcase the fashion element.
BTL: Was there any character or outfit that was particularly challenging to dress or create?
Schoenfeld: I don’t think anything was particularly challenging, but what we really wanted to accomplish was everybody being comfortable and happy, and I think it’s safe to say we were able to do that. Something that was time-consuming but turned out super cool, and I hope the audience is able to see it, is that we even dressed all the background, and on some days, we would have 100 background [actors] on the Fox lot when we were shooting on the backlot. Steve really wanted to show what it looks like when you’re driving around on the golf cart. So we would dress crew members. We would dress 20 people in ambulance attire. We would dress people in ’70s [clothing]. We would dress people in a big walkabout cookie costume. We would dress flapper era. So that was fun, in itself. Lots of work. We have a whole background trailer stocked full of costumes, but again, that’s just something that, if you’re watching and you see an alien walking by in the background, it adds something different that I don’t think a TV show besides Reboot showcases right now.
BTL: I keep thinking about all the sitcoms that are being rebooted and how now I’m going to pay so much more attention to how the costumes are different. Bel-Air is one example, taking the distinctive The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air into the modern era. If we say there’s no huge difference between the early 2000s and now, the ’90s were surely a different story. Have you watched any of these new revival series and taken note of how people are really working to change the look to adapt to a new era?
Schoenfeld: I will be very honest, I do not watch a lot of television. When I do, I love The Handmaid’s Tale, which is very different from the comedy of Reboot. I have not delved into many of the actual reboots that are happening. Sometimes I think it’s nice that you have a memory of a show from when you were little and to stay with the old memories that [you] have.
BTL: And I don’t think the number one goal on The Handmaid’s Tale is to keep everybody happy and comfortable. Those outfits are a little more restrictive.
Schoenfeld: Haha, yes. That’s my dark outlet after the kids are sleeping. I’ll just sit in bed and watch an hour and cry to myself, but [it’s] still enjoyable.
BTL: I took a look to see some of the shows that you’ve worked on. I remember some of the more short-lived ones like The Goodwin Games and 9JKL. I have watched a good chunk of How I Met Your Mother, but the one I watched the most was Life in Pieces.
Schoenfeld: Aw, I’m so glad you watched Life in Pieces. We were on for four seasons, and I hold that show really close to my heart. Justin Adler was our creator and writer, and I remember reading the pilot and just thinking, ‘this is so well-written,’ and imagining who he was going to cast. That one, I really wish it was able to be on for years and years because our cast was amazing. We had a huge main cast, we had 13 main cast members. With each of the four stories, we were hitting around 100 wardrobe changes per episode, so it was a very large show to dress, but just so enjoyable. Everyone, from Justin, who’s a kind soul, to [Reboot EP] Jeff Morton, who was [also] an executive producer on that, that was one that we had all hoped would be on for quite some time. It was a really nice family.
BTL: You did some early work on JAG, which is something else entirely. That’s a very uniform-heavy show. Is that something you enjoy doing?
Schoenfeld: I’m so thankful that I started my career on JAG and got that work ethic instilled in me, because I started as a PA, and I worked my way up on that show. I would have a 3:42 am call at Point Hueneme on a Monday, and by Friday, our call was 7 pm, and we’d work until 7 am on Saturday. I was thrown into it, and the learning experience on that was invaluable. So, would I want to do a military show? I like the creativity that you have from dressing current-day shows, but the structure of a military show is really fascinating, and that show was, again, just a really great group of people. To start off in this business at age 22 and be thrown into such a nice group, I’m so thankful for that.
BTL: You also worked on Same Time, Next Christmas, which stood out to me for three reasons: It’s Hawaii, it’s Christmas, and it’s a TV movie, not a show. What was that experience like?
Schoenfeld: Oh, gosh. I have to say, it was, again, a really great experience. It was tough to be away from my family, but I actually went to high school in Hawaii, so I have friends and family still there, so when we shot there for a couple months, it was nice to be home, if you will. It was interesting because, being on location, we did most of the shopping in Oahu. I did fit Lea [Michele] here in Los Angeles before we traveled there and then fit her again there. But again, our actors… Lea was lovely. She’s a hard worker, and really knows what she wants, and I appreciate that from a costuming perspective. The rest of our crew was lovely. It was fun to do a Christmas movie. It’s a really light-hearted, sweet movie, so that was a really fun experience.
BTL: Do you have anything else that you’re working on right now besides Reboot?
Schoenfeld: I am currently doing the second season of Grand Crew on NBC, and I know I’m sounding completely redundant, but it’s the loveliest group of people! Our actors are so funny and just warm and welcoming, and our producers are wonderful. Phil Jackson is our showrunner, and just the most talented, nicest guy possible. We’re really enjoying it. We’ve shot a couple episodes already of our second season. We shoot right at Universal, so we’re on that right now.
BTL: It’s very refreshing to hear about all these positive experiences. For an industry that doesn’t always have the best reputation, it sounds like sometimes it can be pretty great.
Schoenfeld: I know. And I mean it sincerely. I fully know everybody has a bad day, but for the most part, I will say, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve worked with wonderful actors, wonderful executive producers, and have been fortunate enough to work on really, really great shows that I’m proud of.
Season 1 of Reboot is now streaming in full on Hulu.