“The Orville”

October 10, 2017

Anna Wyckoff

With period shows like Salem and The Lizzie Borden Chronicles under his belt, Costume Designer Joseph Porro is no stranger to creating made-to-order pieces at the breakneck pace of a television series. But even with such experience, he found Seth MacFarlane’s science fiction drama-comedy The Orville for Fox a new set of challenges. In every episode the cast confronts a strange alien race, meaning that the ten-episode season was more like ten jobs rolled into one. But Porro tackled creating aliens with trademark aplomb. “The way to do it is the way you approach a period show, but you ask, ‘What’s the planet? What’s the planet surface like? What is this alien culture like?’ It’s nonstop sketches.’”

Attention to detail is of particular importance on such a project, and that’s particularly the case for the principals. Translating MacFarlane’s vision into reality meant getting it just right. “We did over a hundred designs for the uniforms before I could finally get it to the point where he was, like, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s what I want.'” Ensuring that the costumes mesh with the production design and the makeup on a science fiction program was also critical. Porro used fabrics that referenced the patterns on the walls of a set to create continuity between the alien characters and their environment. When he saw that the makeup for another set of aliens was a dramatic red, he shifted the color palette of their costumes to fit that choice. “I went into blacks and grays and reds in their costumes, which were all flattering to the makeup,” he explains.

Porro is also quick to credit his talented and hard-working team. Working out of three trailers at Fox meant space was at an absolute premium, and a strong, talented crew was a necessity to produce as many as fifty made-to-order costumes an episode for one-shot aliens and background characters, plus costumes for the principals. “My workroom is my life and the crew is everything. If I’m doing a modern day show, a great shopper is a lifesaver. On a project like this, we’re building all the principals and all the day players, so if you don’t have a good cutter/fitter, you’re in trouble. My crew really stepped up to the plate. I’m so happy with them.”

The Orville airs on Thursdays at 9 pm on FOX.

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