Alfre Woodard as Constance Payton in "State of Affairs." Photo credit: NBC.

“State of Affairs”

November 14, 2014

In the new NBC series, “State of Affairs,” Katherine Heigl stars as Charleston “Charlie” Tucker, a CIA officer pulled from the ranks to become a key member of the White House staff–the president’s daily briefer, who assesses the country’s most critical threats while navigating the unique lifestyle that comes with a high-pressure position. The president and Charlie are bound by more than a job: Charlie was once engaged to the president’s son before he was killed in a terrorist attack.

Though the statuesque Heigl appears in a range of looks–from stylish business woman to shirtsleeves colleague–dressing her boss required a special level of care.

While Heigl used her personal stylist Tanya Gill for the pilot, and Costume Designer Victoria Auth took over the series, Costume Designer Melina Root designed the pilot, and importantly, establish the look of the president of the United States, Constance Payton, played by Alfre Woodard.

“I really loved working with Alfre,” Root said. “She works the same way I do.” When Root and the actress were finally connected, three days before shooting, they developed the character and her look together.

“There was no description of the character, no who is this person, this president of the universe,” said Root, who turned to one of the show’s writers for character background.

“We had a lot of discussions about the character. We determined that Constance came from a military family, a really structured household. She had a sense of duty and service to her country. Her clothes reflect a cleanness that derives from being in a family that is used to wearing uniforms.”

With such a pioneering character, Root and Woodard began by trying several approaches–but not Hilary Clinton-style pantsuits.

“The obvious choice was to put her in a power suit, chalk stripes or red, but we decided that her power was more gentle somehow. She was confident enough in her strength and her ability that she could dress as she wanted.

“I specifically wanted warmer, pale tones for her costume so that she would appear glowing and god-lilke against the Oval Office windows. She’s strong and elegant, but not aggressively or ‘powerfully’ dressed,” Root said.

For key scenes in the White House, Root tailored a pale blush color Tahari petite jacket and built a cream sheath dress.

“Our main issue was about Alfre’s shoes. Alfre can’t wear heels, so we tried a variety of wedges, flats, brogues, even some clogs. I bought every wedge shoe and clog in New York,” Root said.

Woodard wanted to wear clogs, because, as leader of the free world, she can wear what she wants, right?

“I explained that you can’t wear clogs in the pilot. It will look like a costume mistake,” said Root, who hasn’t given up hope that one day, Dansko clogs will be walking the White House halls. “Someday, there will be an episode that explains that heels are an instrument of torture.”

The NBC series airs Mondays at 10/9 Central.

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