Fashion is at the center of every sitcom, whether it’s obvious or not. But in Hulu’s new sitcom Reboot, the costume design and wardrobe are an integral part of the show’s premise.
First premiering in September, Reboot follows a dysfunctional group of actors as they’re forced back together for a “reboot” of their popular early 2000s TV show Step Right Up. As they’re brought back together, many of their past unresolved issues arise as they try to find their footing. Stars Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer, Johnny Knoxville, and Rachel Bloom seamlessly use comedy to demonstrate the layered complexities in human behavior as they move into deeper and more interesting characters.
All these layers mean the costuming is particularly essential in order to give life to each character’s evolution through each time period. This includes the original show the cast is rebooting, the reboot version of the show, and, of course, the cast as their “real” selves.
FEMESTELLA spoke with the show’s Costume Designer Reiko Schoenfeld to learn how she juggles the shift in time periods to create unique wardrobes for the cast, and what advice she has for newcomers trying to join this industry.
Can you please start by telling us about your background and how you got into costume designing?
I spent most of my youth in Hawaii. My mom is fourth-generation Japanese, so I went to high school there and then college in Colorado. My name Reiko, actually means “everything is beautiful” in Japanese. When I was in college, I made the decision to be in television and film and I majored in communications and film.
At the time, I reached out to one of my mom’s friends who was at Paramount. She suggested I move to Los Angeles, which I did. I started as a production assistant in the wardrobe department at a CBS television show called “JAG” and worked my way up. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tell me more about ‘Reboot’. What was the process like in representing costumes across different time periods and what were some of the challenges in sourcing these clothes?
I wanted to make sure the costumes and styling represented the creator’s vision and writing, and I knew I had to bring the characters to life. One of the main things about my process is to talk to the producers to understand their vision and what is driving the writing of their characters and I speak to my actors to get their interpretation and find out what they’re comfortable with. We work together as a team to develop signature looks.
The most challenging aspect of a first season show is to navigate what each signature look is because there are a number of moving parts. It’s hard to appease everyone, but once we narrow down colors, fits, and cuts on people’s bodies, it becomes easier to build character.
Do you ever have situations in which cast members/actors or actresses push back on something you want them to wear? How do you handle that?
At the end of the day, I want my actor happy, so if the producer wants a look and the actor is not jiving with it, I serve as the medium. Part of my job and my team’s job is to make sure whatever the actor is wearing is something they like and that my producers understand this is a team effort. I like to be a collaborator with everyone on the crew and I want to make sure that everyone is happy as they can be.
How has working on ‘Reboot’ different from your other work at ‘How I Met Your Mother’, ‘Life in Pieces’, and the other many series you’ve worked on?
Reboot is so special because we dress the characters within each character so there are multiple layers. I was able to utilize my past work with sitcoms to bring to life the actual sitcom look.
What’s been interesting about this show compared to my other projects is that it’s difficult to dress for the early 2000s. I can’t just walk into Nordstrom or Bloomingdales and pull pieces. Instead, I need to build closets that represent that time period to make them look authentic and realistic.
Do you ever draw inspiration from your own fashion/styling preferences?
Yes, I definitely do, and that’s natural. I like to find common ground with my female actresses and I tend to support female-run companies and sustainable brands. If someone tells me they like my sweater or another piece of clothing I am wearing, I will bring that to mind when styling my actors. One of my actresses is vegan, so I take that as inspiration and find non-leather brands and vintage pieces to use instead.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into costume design and styling?
My biggest lesson is to work your way up. Spend as much time as you can doing each position in the department you are in so you have an overall knowledge and appreciation of what each person in your team does. A couple of other ways to get started is by working at costume houses, non-union productions, commercials, styling photoshoots, and finding other gigs.
Key things to remember for someone starting out are to keep your costume designing simple, understand their boundaries, and pay attention to what textures, materials, and colors look good on camera. Listen to what your actors like and don’t be forceful. If they are comfortable then their performance will be more natural and that’s what we want.
New episodes of Reboot drop Tuesdays on Hulu.
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