August 15, 2014
It’s cold in Chicago, where actor Eric McCormack stars in “Perception” as Dr. Daniel Pierce, a neuroscience professor at the fictional Chicago Lake Michigan University who helps the FBI solve some of its most difficult cases. The many sweaters McCormack wears aren’t just because of the weather outside; they’re also a signal about his mental state.
Dr. Pierce is a paranoid schizophrenic who has trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. In a TV-perfect twist, his hallucinations sometimes provide clues that help crack the cases. Though the character could have been played as a fusty caricature of a college professor or a disheveled mess, Costume Designer Julia Schklair went against the stereotypes.
“He’s young and he’s funky and he’s hip. But everything else about him is really old school,” she said.
Schklair has made his sweaters into a distinct element of the character, whom she described as “a brilliant guy who knows what his own limitations and boundaries are.” Just as his character is slow to embrace new technology, he similarly likes a reassuring simplicity in his clothing.
“He has his comfortable sweater on because it is one less stimulus that is foreign,” Schklair said. “The sweater is a coping mechanism.”
She keeps the palette focused on neutrals such as gray, navy, brown, cream and oatmeal, and avoids anything with too much pattern, color or texture. The fibers are soothing soft wool, cashmere or linen.
“He is slight and we don’t want the sweater to wear him,” she said. “And all of his clothes are very much armor-like and functional vs. fashionable so that he can easily hide.”
The sweater closet for “Perception” is rather large, considering that the show portrays six to 10 days per episode on screen, and each of those days requires a new outfit.
“He started with mostly cardigans and we’ve gotten into a few hoodies, a few shawl collars and Henleys. As his character has progressed we are allowing more pieces to change it up a little bit so it is not as staid,” Schklair said.
And as for the pants? In the first season, the character settled on wearing only one style that he wore all season. After three seasons of shooting, Schklair has come up with her own coping mechanisms for dressing her star. “Now I find a pair and buy up every last one across the country so we have enough to last.”
“Perception” airs on TNT at 10 p.m. Tuesdays, and throughout the week.