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Costume Designer Megan Gray On Creating Hacker Looks And Punky Androgeny For A Murder At The End Of The World

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Costume Designer Megan Gray

Have you ever wondered what’s inside the wardrobe closet of a hacker, a Gen-Z sleuth, a roboticist, an angel investor, and a filmmaker? Would it be punky? Would it be sexy and androgenous? Would it be tailored and coutured? Those questions came into play when designing the clothes of the characters in the FX series A Murder At The End Of The World, who gather for a meeting of the hive minds in an uber-technically designed hotel in the middle of nowhere in Iceland.

Stylist and costume designer Megan Gray looked to classic murder mysteries such as Clue, Gosford Park, and even Hackers for each of their unique signature looks. For instance, the color red was front and center for Darby (Emma Corwin), who is a master at unraveling the internet’s collective intelligence in order to solve cold cases. Whereas creamier colors were featured on Lee Anderson (Brit Marling), a former hacker who rose to cult status in a male-dominated craft. In fact, Gray chose a specific color palette that would differentiate between time periods as the story shifts from the 2016 Utah desert to 2023 snowy Iceland.

Megan Gray began her career in fashion design with Geren Ford in Los Angeles, helping to launch their “Hawks” collaboration with Urban Outfitters. Moving to the east coast, she designed for Ralph Lauren in New York. Quickly realizing her passion lied more with styling, she branched out into styling numerous advertorial campaigns, commercials, and celebrity clients, including Brit Marling, which led to their collaboration on The OA Part II and subsequently A Murder At The End Of The World, created and directed by Marling and Zal Batmanglij. Her other film and television projects also include Windfall (Netflix), The Matrix Resurrections, and Birds of Prey. 

Below The Line spoke with Megan Gray from her home in Los Angeles, where she thoughtfully broke down the creative decisions behind each character’s individual style.

Below The Line: It seems like each character is stylized. What inspired each of their looks?

Megan Gray: I’ve had the opportunity to work with Brit and Zal previously, so collaborating with them is something that feels very natural. They are writers and directors who also really visualize a character while they’re writing them, which is helpful because you have kind of a starting point and then have the ability to kind of run with it. I really love collaborating with actors. I think they do such deep research on who their character is, and so with the vision that I have of what the character could become mixed with what they see as well, they kind of creates this really beautiful story. 

BTL: Were you inspired by murder mysteries?

Gray: I love whodunnits, and I’m a fan of The Long Goodbye. There’s so many really amazing ones like Gosford Park and even in something like Clue, Scarlet, or Professor Plum, understanding that everyone kind of was known for having one thing, whether it was a bowler hat or a pearl necklace. So, we wanted to take something that would feel quite iconic for each character, but make it feel more modern and grounded for today.

When you bring in the elements of hackers, because so many people on the retreat are actually hackers, referencing things like the original Hackers and Angelina Jolie. Then there’s Mr. Robot, and so kind of wanting to tap into the things that I think naturally resonate with people, but also finding our own language of what hackers would look like in this TV series. We started there and then just ran with it. 

“A Murder at the End of the World” — “Chapter 1: Homme Fatale” Pictured: Emma Corrin as Darby Hart. CR: Chris SaundersFX

BTL: So talk about those signature looks like the red hoodie for Darby (Emma Corwin).

Gray: We had a very strict color palette for 2016 and 2023. In 2023, it was the colors of Iceland, so reds and blues and whites and blacks and grays. We all always knew that Darby was red, so that was a color that we really wanted to showcase. It was really prominent in the beginning when you meet Darby’s character with a red jacket, a red hoodie, red basketball shorts, red socks, and kind of a sprinkle of red in the other characters, but really, leave that to be Darby’s main color.

The hoodie—I wouldn’t say that to me—is the most iconic thing for Darby. I think it’s the most natural piece of clothing when you’re thinking of somebody who wants to kind of use that to close off the world around them when they’re either hacking or sleuthing, kind of being able to go into their own space. We do definitely use a hoodie with Emma’s character throughout, but to me, it was more the pieces of playing with the femininity and also androgyny for Emma’s character that I’m hoping is what felt iconic for Darby’s character. It was more the idea of utilizing the color red and also playing into this unexpected feeling of femininity, strength, and power, but also vulnerability for her. 

BTL: That’s interesting because I found her to be very sexy, and perhaps it was because of the androgyny. Even her undergarments were really cute and boyish and fun.

Gray: Oh, great. So many times female characters are overtly sexy and playing up, and I think it was really important to Brit that we didn’t play into that. We really wanted to show a female character where you’re questioning, like you did, why you found her character sexy. Is it because there’s certain things that are boyish mixed with a sheer shirt? So it was really important for us to find that mix, and Emma really responded that she was excited about playing a character on screen that did have a level of androgyny to it.

So that balance was something that we really made sure you felt in every part of Darby’s character. I think in 2016, we let a little bit more with femininity and youthfulness to kind of show Darby’s character being young, but even then, they’re still in boy shorts, or there’s something quite cute about it. I think that allows the viewer to kind of question but also feel the sensuality and sexuality of Darby’s character. 

“A Murder at the End of the World” — “Chapter 3: Survivors” Pictured: Emma Corrin as Darby Hart. CR: Eric Liebowitz/FX

BTL: That peekaboo see-through shirt with the bra underneath was a throwback for me, very Madonna-esque. 

Gray: Yeah. I think that’s the great thing about fashion is that it’s so cyclical. My parents will even say, “Oh, I had that style of jacket in the 70s.” That’s in again. I think that’s why in 2016, it might feel like a period, which is so frightening because it wasn’t that long ago. Some of the things that were in 2016 are still in the present day.

Also, you could find the ’80s or the ’90s then. If you’re not doing a very intense period piece, ’30s, ’40s, or ’50s, you can kind of have this ability to play because everything is so cyclical and there’s always people who might be a step ahead, a step behind. I think that’s the way that we approached it in that way of costuming. 

BTL: Let’s talk about outerwear. Were you in Iceland at all? 

Gray: We were, yes. We shot all of our exteriors in Iceland. It was where we started our shoot. We’d spent about a month there, and then we shot on stages in New Jersey and some exteriors in New York. We were actually in Utah at the very end for almost four weeks. 

BTL: So it was as cold as it looked? 

Gray: Yes! We kind of experienced all of Iceland towards the end of our shoot. It was sunny and the ice was melting, and all of us were like, “What is happening?” Because when we get there, the winds and the weather can turn very quickly. In Iceland, we relied so much on our Icelandic crew.

I was very fortunate to have two amazing costumers from Iceland who really told us so many things coming from New York, like that heat tech doesn’t work here. You need a smart wall, and you need this. We were fortunate that for the exteriors we shot in Iceland, our characters were meant to be quite bundled up. So we were able to really keep them quite warm, but yes, it was as cold as it looks, definitely. 

“A Murder at the End of the World” — “Chapter 3: Survivors” Pictured: Clive Owen as Andy. CR: Lilja Jons/FX

BTL: Talk about styling their winter coats. They still look very chic, even though they must be freezing to death.  

Gray: Yeah, we wanted it to feel like the characters were given a small itinerary or inkling that you’re going to need a bathing suit and a coat, and then the hotel itself would provide the rest. So all of the winter coats were the same. We worked with a brand, found different versions of it, and then kind of mixed them in. Certain characters, like Andy Ronson’s (Clive Owen) character, have their own coats, and because Bill (Harris Dickinson) knew where he was coming, he’s in his own snow coat.

We tried to plant these tiny little Easter eggs, which I don’t know if everyone picked up on, which makes it quite fun that Rohan (Javed Khan) and Bill had their own outerwear knowing where they were going. Obviously, Andy Ronson doesn’t need what the hotel provides because it is his hotel and his retreat, but it was really fun once we got into the characters to be like, okay, so Martin’s (Jermaine Fowler) character would really give into that idea of being in the snow and have suspenders and a jacket and a hat. Each character we tried to kind of keep in the world of who we already established them to be within creating what would have been a hotel-issued outerwear piece.

BTL: Clive Owen and Raul Esparza wear some pretty nice suits. Where did you source those from?  

Gray: In my initial zoom with Clive, he’s very in tune with his character, and he’s such an amazing actor to work with because he really cares, and he really felt that we wanted to have a consistent silhouette of who Andy was so that you could feel Andy’s presence on camera in a shadow and know who it was. And for us, that meant we would have to probably build a fair amount to kind of keep that consistency.

My wonderful assistant, Alyssa Bracken, who works mostly in New York, and I worked with the shirting company Segoe. He makes all of the shirts for everything you’ve literally seen on TV. We made all of Clive’s shirting. Our in-house tailor, Sarah, made a lot of his suits. We had a few suits that we loved with Armani and Kiton that we were able to kind of weave throughout. We really wanted to build a lot of it and tell a story, even with Clive’s shirting.

When you first meet him, it’s lighter colors, and then in episode seven, the very last episode, his shirt is dyed to match the color of Darby socks that you see in the first episode, the super deep red. And for David, Raul’s character, we kind of played around. We knew that we wanted beautiful suits for him. So we worked with Brunello Cucinelli, we worked with Hugo Boss, and we made a lot of his shirting as well. We had a lot of fun in the suiting world for both characters.

“A Murder at the End of the World” — “Chapter 2: The Silver Doe” Pictured: Brit Marling as Lee, Emma Corrin as Darby Hart. CR: Chris Saunders/FX

BTL: Can you elaborate on using retro styling like the thumb holes for Brit Marling’s character Lee Andersen? 

Gray: With Brit’s character, it was a harder one for us because we didn’t want Lee to lose who she used to be—this hacker, this person who was more punk, kind of a renegade—and now she’s married to Andy Ronson. We definitely leaned into what would maybe be a different and elevated world, like Elon Musk. At the time, it was playing out in real life. We wanted to make it believable that Brit’s character now had access to money and had to also be perceived as the tech billionaire wife, but that she would still have certain aspects of herself. So we had the sweaters that her thumbs went through. She wore the same boots throughout the show. All of her rings always stayed the same, and her tattoos.

Even the dress you see—it’s a Paco Rabanne, and there’s metal on it—continues that level of punk. With Brit, I was very lucky. All of my actors were very involved and came into this space with a lot of wonderful ideas of what would feel right for them. Brit definitely wanted to have this sweater that her thumbs could go through, and she always feels this level of punk and groundedness even if she’s wearing this beautiful silk dress when we first meet her. 

“A Murder at the End of the World” — “Chapter 2: The Silver Doe” Pictured: Jermaine Fowler as Martin. CR: Chris Saunders/FX

BTL: What would you say was your favorite piece of input from the actors?  

Gray: Oh my gosh. I mean, one that definitely sticks out is Jermaine Fowler, who plays Martin. We had so much fun creating his character, and we really went there with fashion pieces. He had this amazing idea that his character would be someone who was always sketching and drawing and very creative. We had a pair of Converse in the room in our first fitting, and he really wanted to take them home and draw on them, and we loved that, so we gave him the shoes, and a month later he sent them back.

We had Rob, our ager/dyer, who’s also an amazing illustrator, create multiples because we would need them for the run of the show, but that level of input and idea takes the character a little bit further. That was one that really sung for me because it felt so real, and it really added to the element of who Martin’s character was. I guess we played with color a bit more—he definitely wore the range, whether it was pink, burgundy, blue, black, or white. We let his character be that person. I think his closet was one that was very desired by our crew, and he was like, “What can I take home with me at the end of this?”

“A Murder at the End of the World” — “Chapter 3: Survivors” Pictured: (l-r) Joan Chen as Lu Mei, Emma Corrin as Darby Hart. CR: Eric Liebowitz/FX

BTL: When you work with designers like Valentino for the dress Joan Chen’s character wears, do they charge you a fortune? How does that work?  

Gray: I think it depends on the usage. I come from a fashion background and a styling background, so I’m very fortunate to have long-standing relationships with so many brands and designers. I think COVID definitely took a toll on brands being able to kind of give everything to you. It’s also important; even with these bigger brands, we do want to support them as much as they support us. I would say with a lot of things, whether it’s a discount or there was a coat that actually never made it a scene that got but this beautiful Rowe coat that was black, that had these red and blue rings hand-sewed on it. We borrowed it for like a week to shoot and then gave the sample back.

The brands were very, very kind in helping us. We worked with a lot of young designers. Darby’s earrings and Lee’s Zoomer bracelet were made by a dear friend of mine who has a jewelry brand. The Valentino we did buy. It was an expensive thing, but it made a lot of sense for Lu Mei‘s character. That one we actually archived for the show. I adore Joan, and her wardrobe really plays a huge part for her, but in her real life, she wanted more of the pieces that she could use every day. That amazing white Valentino that had that hand painting on it is probably not something she would get to wear that often. 

BTL: Have the Gen Z-ers of the world really connected to Emma’s clothing?  Have you gotten that kind of feedback? 

Gray: I have a 17-year-old stepson, and I was very curious to see what he and his friends thought about it. I think what’s so interesting about Gen Z is that they’re the first generation to have access to the internet. You could live in Iowa or Ohio, but you could see what kids are wearing in Tokyo. So I think how different cultures and different cities can really create these beautiful collaborations on how people choose to express themselves was something that I found really important.

Darby’s from a very, very small town and maybe doesn’t have the access to the stores that you would have if you grew up in a big city, but she has the ability to find inspiration in what she sees on the Internet. I’ve received great feedback from the Gen Zers about that. It did make sense, and it did resonate, so that made us very, very happy to hear because we were trying to make sure that that was something we actually got. 

BTL: Is there a genre that you’re particularly attracted to because you also did the Matrix Resurrections and Birds of Prey. Are you attracted to fantasy?  

Gray: Yes, most of the films or TV shows that I’ve designed have been more modern day. I’ve had the ability to work on some amazing films like the Matrix or Birds of Prey and the second Captain Marvel; these kinds of fantasy things, which is great because working on a Marvel is a whole other beast. You get to create worlds that no one’s ever seen before. So the agency that you have when you’re working in costumes is like, okay, today we’re on this planet, and what would the people wear on this planet?

I would love to work more in the ’70s, ’30s, and ’50s. I find all of those decades quite beautiful and specific for fashion, which I think is really fun to do. The fantasy aspect is wonderful too, because unless you’re following a comic book perfectly, you can kind of create whatever you want as long as it feels right for that world. So, I really enjoy all of it.

I got into this to tell stories and to be a part of entertainment and happiness for the world and for viewers, and I’m a huge movie and TV person myself, so any story that I get to be a part of telling is something that I’m happy to be a part of. 

BTL: When you look back at this series, what were you most proud of?  

Gray: I didn’t know any of my team before working with them, and I’m really proud that, not knowing each other and filming in a COVID space, we became a family. We really were able to take a lot of hard times and create this really beautiful story that we’re all really, really proud of. I’m really proud of the characters that we created. I think that you can get a sense of who each one is and what part of the story they tell. I see myself in all of them, so it’s a hard one to let go. I feel very connected to it still. 

BTL: Can you put into words what part of yourself you see in each character?

Gray: I do see a part of me in all 10 of them. I think it was because of the research that we did and the collaboration with the actors so deeply that I felt who Martin was and what his connection was to color. I feel who Darby’s character is and that desire to be androgynous and sexual at the same time. I feel Lee’s character of not letting go of who you were in your past but being able to express yourself in the present day is something I can relate to. The stories of growing up, becoming who you want to be, and always having something that really grounds you as a human are part of me. All those characters feel like a piece of home to me. 

A Murder at the End of the World is now available to stream on Hulu. 

Robin Milling
Robin Milling
Robin Milling is an Entertainment Reporter and Producer based in New York. Robin has a wealth of experience as an Entertainment Reporter covering film, theater, television, and music. Her style is conversational and candid, discussing personal issues as well as professional topics with celebrities. She is a writer/producer and host of the podcast Milling About™ with Robin Milling, which can be heard on Amazon Music, Apple podcasts, and seen on YouTube, featuring her provocative conversations with the hottest names in Hollywood.
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