Actor Jonah Hill in character as Schmidt in "22 Jump Street." Photo credit: Sony Pictures.

Schmidt's outfit was altered so that he could segue into his gang member alter ego with ease.

“22 Jump Street”

June 13, 2014

In “22 Jump Street,” Costume Designer Leesa Evans had to know when to play it straight, and when to go for laughs. The movie, a buddy bromance starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, is a sequel to 2012’s high-school caper “21 Jump Street” that takes the action to college, where the undercover cop duo enroll to bust a fraternity drug ring.

Evans, who designed “Bridesmaids,” “American Pie” and “I Love You, Man,” reserves humorous getups for background characters to create a visual punch line. She said that for lead characters, “You want to play it as the straight guy or straight girl, and the funny things that come up are beat here and there.”

That’s why the lead duo, Tatum and Hill, dress the part of up-and-coming professionals in the police department’s undercover detective squad. For a key scene on the first day of shooting, Evans had to find a way to channel that sophistication into a comic bit. She performed a little wardrobe sleight of hand by making one of Hill’s costumes “morph” into another, without the character appearing to change clothes.

“The outfit he wears in the beginning of the film needs to look cool, because he’s an undercover detective, but that outfit needs to turn into a cholo outfit so he can fit into a Latino gang,” she said.

For Hill’s young detective look, she chose a classic, slim-cut pair of Dickies khaki pants, and a black and gray check slim-fitted shirt that vintage retailer What Goes Around Comes Around custom made in two looks for her.

“We ended up making the shirt in a size that would look more like it belonged to a Latino gang member, so we made it bigger and longer and more boxy,” she said. To achieve his gang member look, Hill wore the matching but oversized shirt buttoned only at the collar to reveal a white T-shirt beneath; he accessorized with black plastic sunglasses from Rite Aid and a surplus store bandana.

“You are not meant to see [the change] on screen—it’s the exact same fabric and you don’t realize it’s necessarily bigger, but you believe it because it looks the same. It looks like he just unbuttoned the shirt and put on the sunglasses and a bandana became a gang member,” she said.

To make her shirt swap successful, Evans worked backward.

“If you start looking at what the end results needs to be, you can find what the pieces are that will get you there,” she said. “So we focused on gang members instead of the cool undercover cop—a guy who had been given a raise and was with it and hip. That direction narrows your choices so you can focus on the end result.”

Evans also knew to keep the look sophisticated—and serious.

“We didn’t want it to be a joke, because it’s not,” Evans said. “In the world of gang members, it’s real.”

“22 Jump Street” opens in theaters nationwide today.

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