“Feed the Beast”

June 10, 2016

Anna Wyckoff

Feed the Beast, designed by Abram Waterhouse, is a television series filled with subtle but distinct contrasts. Characters are created to either stand out in high relief or to disappear into the backdrop of the Bronx, which the show suggests is the last frontier of wilderness in New York. Waterhouse has a nuanced vision for the costumes. Their differences are carefully calibrated to create a visual shorthand for the audience and to underscore the fallibilities of each personality. It is the reality of the characters, theirs flaws and difficulties, which draw the viewer into the story.

“The show is about broken people,” explains Waterhouse. “Tommy (David Schwimmer) has lost wife, his job, and his best friend Dion (Jim Sturgess)—who ended up in prison. Tommy has become a sort of become a non-person, so I wanted him to be nearly invisible and dressed him in grey, navy, and black. Only when he goes back to what he loves, being a sommelier, does he have a particular identity—when he puts his professional identity on in the form of a suit.” Particularly symbolic is Tommy’s sommelier pin that distinguishes his specific expertise.

Waterhouse chose to use Dion as a foil for Tommy. He emphasized Dion’s streetwise, hardscrabble background by giving his clothes more of an edge. “I really wanted to use Adidas, because that’s just such a New York thing,” says Waterhouse, “Dion became the bearer of the three stripes.” Also, in order to underscore the reality of the characters and their personalities, Waterhouse often repeats garments in order to give the audience a link, either conscious or subconscious, to who the person is.

Taking a different approach for Pilar (Lorenza Izzo), the female lead, Waterhouse wanted to demonstrate that her character is not quite formed and is searching for an identity. Focusing on bright colors that call to mind her Cuban descent, he used her tendency to collect and assemble items in a haphazard way to underscore her childlike quality. For the antagonist, known as the Tooth Fairy (Michael Gladis), Waterhouse used more color coupled with an almost 60s, Krays brother inspired silhouette of knee length car coats, suits and ties. “His character is extremely fastidious and he always makes an effort to dress the part for the gangster that he is.” Running counter to Tommy, the Tooth Fairy stands out distinctly from his environment.

Waterhouse feels his focus in Costume Design always consistent: to evoke the characters while creating an interesting visual tableau. In order to elevate the story, he looks for details to further delineate character. For him, a heightened but believable reality is paramount, “It is important that everybody doesn’t look like a fashion plate. It was clear from the start that these people had to be believable with the context of the show as actual characters, other than just representations of characters.”

Feed the Beast airs Tuesday on AMC at 10/9 central.

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