August 11, 2017

Anna Wyckoff

Showing the development arc of characters that suddenly transition to rural life after living in Chicago, presented Costume Designer Stephani Lewis with a particular set of challenges on the Netflix show Ozark. The problem was to demonstrate the gradual evolution of the characters as they settled into their new home over the course of the season, yet convey the individuality of both the transplants and the local characters through their clothes. She explains, “What is natural in Chicago isn’t necessarily natural in the Ozarks. The fun was to play with the characters from Chicago once they get down to the Ozarks, how they stick out, and how it changes them.”

“When I interviewed with Jason Bateman he said, ‘If I every single day of this shoot is overcast and gray, I’ll be happy.’ So, we wanted a more muted, gray, subdued, and darker palette.” With such a purposefully limited spectrum to choose from, Lewis used the pattern, design and accessories of the clothing to differentiate the characters and make them unique. “It was a way for me to give them a little bit of their own personal flair,” Lewis says. For instance, Del Rio (Esai Morales) the crime lord for a Mexican cartel, got a pair of cowboy boots and a particular belt to show his connection to the world outside of the Ozarks. Conversely, local boy Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan) wears t-shirts that are actually from the Ozarks with the names of nearby bars and businesses on them.

A veteran cast which had all done their homework also made for a dynamic, cooperative experience. Bateman had a lot of faith in his actors and in Lewis. “He gave me a lot of freedom,” Lewis says. “He said whatever feels right for the character he would trust and only bounce back on things that are story points.” That meant Lewis found the fittings to be particularly lively and fun as she and the actors worked to figure out who the characters were as individuals. “I love collaboration,” Lewis explains, “that made the job really special.”

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