James Brolin as the patriarch, John, in “Life in Pieces.” Photos courtesy of ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Holly J. Barrett as “Samantha” and James Brolin as “John.”

(L-R): Thomas Sadoski as “Matt,” James Brolin as “John” and Colin Hanks as “Greg.”

“Life in Pieces”

November 6, 2015

Valli Herman

Even behind the scenes, the new CBS comedy “Life in Pieces” is about the power of collaboration. Created by Justin Adler, “Life in Pieces” is an ensemble family comedy separated into four short stories every week.

For Costume Designer Reiko Kurumada, that means about 60 wardrobe changes in 22 minutes of air time. She weighed in on her role in shaping one of the stellar cast members, James Brolin, who plays patriarch John, husband to Joan (Dianne Wiest) and a clan of friends and family that includes Greg (Colin Hanks), Jen (Zoe Lister-Jones), Heather (Betsy Brandt), Matt (Thomas Sadoski) in an ensemble cast of 11 main characters.

“I was fortunate enough to start on the pilot for the series,” said Kurumada. “I feel like when a designer is able to be on a pilot and see the series through, it helps the process because you are able to build the characters from the get-go.”

Kurumada said that Adler, the executive producer and creator, based some of the characters on his real life. “When Justin and I discussed the characters in the beginning, we wanted to emulate a part of our fathers in the character of John. As the patriarch of the family, he would be very clean cut, classic, traditional, Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren, if you will.”

“When we discussed that idea with Jim [Brolin], he had a very different idea of where he wanted to take his character. Where we landed is a quirky, unique, disheveled patriarch. Jim is taking his character from his own father, actually. The stories he tells us about his father are crazy and fascinating,” Kurumada said. “I think to some extent, we all do our best work from what we know–our own lives. That is what Jim is doing. He is embellishing the character of his real dad.”

“So we came up with this happy medium of high and low–a mix of the Double RL line from Ralph Lauren, which is rustic and Western and manly. Literally, I buy Kirkland jeans at Costco. Those are Jim’s favorite jeans–the only jeans he wears.”
Kurumada is known to grab inspiration wherever she finds it, too. For an episode where the men golf together, each character needed a look that represented his era and character. For Brolin, that meant the glamorously garish golf wear of mid-century America.

“We landed on a baby pink, vintage pair of slacks for Jim,” Kurumada said. “They were shoved in a box of shoes at Fox Studios. They were way too small, but we had the tailor alter them and line them. We threw them on and he was a happy camper.”

“Life in Pieces” airs Thursdays on CBS at 8:30 p.m./ 7:30 p.m. Central


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