September 16, 2016
There is a new genre of film and television that specializes in reimagining a beloved brand. Costume Designer Genevieve Tyrrell has mastered this design challenge. Her latest project, Lethal Weapon, transposes the iconic movie’s context into a television series for Fox. In the costumes, Tyrrell says she wanted to capture quintessential Americana, while being faithful to the film’s primary intent. She also collaborated with the actors to modernize the look of the costumes.
Her approach is a study in opposites. While the show’s aesthetic is similar to the original, the characters are more subtly delineated. “Danny Glover’s Murtaugh was always much more buttoned up and super conservative looking,” notes Tyrrell. She dresses Damon Wayan’s Murtaugh as more of a middle-aged dad with an edge. He wears jeans and Jordans, rather than a sport coat and check shirt. For Clayne Crawford’s Riggs, Tyrrell re-imagined the character. Clayne is originally from Alabama, and Tyrrell feels this brings a Southern charm to a character that is otherwise nihilistic and unpredictable. While Riggs’ garments almost have the feeling of being a uniform, Tyrrell uses subtle cues to reflect the mood of the character. Before each episode shoots, she lays out the costumes and reviews them with Crawford. Together they decide the intent, choosing to pop a collar or tuck in a shirt to underscore his psychological state.
On a practical level, Tyrrell is constantly considering how to create the look while allowing for many sets of multiples, which need to be garment washed and aged to create a feeling of authenticity for Riggs. In contrast to this patina, she cultivates a crispness in Murtaugh’s costumes. This juxtaposition extends to the color palette. Tyrrell uses washed-out earth tones for Riggs and more saturated hues for Murtaugh.
Supporting characters are equally important and distinct. With Murtaugh’s wife, Trish (Keesha Sharp), Tyrrell balances the dichotomy of showing her as a powerful attorney in addition to revealing her motherly side, choosing strong suits with an element of softness. In Dr. Cahill (Jordana Brewster) she cultivates a boho vibe mixed with a business sensibility. This is expressed in chiffon shirts and peasant blouses tucked into slender skirts.
Tyrrell has a specific vision for each of the characters, and enjoys making small adjustments on set to create more dimensionality. “I guess I’m really hands-on,” Tyrrell says. “So often now designers don’t stick around, they don’t spend time on set, they don’t come to the trailer first thing in the morning, and come to set to establish [the costumes]. There seems to be a dying art to protocol. I think that it’s really important, not only for the look of the show, but also for your actors, and for the production.”
Lethal Weapon is on Fox, Wednesdays at 8/7central.