May 29, 2014
In “Undateable,” a new summer comedy from NBC, a group of Detroit underdog guys try to find love, with the support—and sarcasm—of their friends. They all have issues—and often, they involve how they dress.
Costume Designer Carey Bennett has never been to Detroit, but she was intent on following a producer’s directive that the city appear almost as another character. Bennett, who designed the season’s 13 episodes and the retooled pilot, set out to understand the city’s nuances.
“There is a little pang of panic that gooses me into the research. I looked for people from Detroit and got my sister-in-law and hairdresser and a camera assistant on board and got great information from them,” she said. Bennett mined blogs for images of locals and found Detroit-centric online shops that supplied her with athletic team jackets, T-shirts that celebrate the local lingo and lore and even a necklace pendant in the shape of the city map.
She dressed comedian Ron Funches’ character, Shelly, as the most die-hard Detroit fan.
“He’s Detroit’s best cheerleader, to the extent that when we shot a yoga class, we made him a shirt that said ‘Breathe Detroit.’ There was a fantasy sequence where he was a ninja and we built a costume with a T-shirt lettered in an Asian font that said ‘Detroit.’
“For Shelly, the challenge was to get this ongoing flow of Detroit imagery onto the clothing. We were only allowed to use so many of the teams. We have to use all the teams and have to use them all equally,” she said.
For comedian Rick Glassman’s character, Burski, Bennett could break rules with abandon.
“Burski is sort of like a freight train of inappropriateness. He is really awkward, but in this really bold way and I wanted to reflect that in his wardrobe. He is very eclectic, but he’s also sort of unapologetic about how he mixes his wardrobe,” Bennett said. He’s the guy who thinks nothing of piling on pastel T-shirt, a navy striped necktie, a burgundy patterned dress shirt and an aqua hoodie. If it looks as if he picked the clothes up from the floor in random order, it’s perfect.
“He just sort of slams it all together and goes with it,” she said. “And he has a huge closet of amazing sneakers, the crazier the color combination the better. We always put really awesome socks on him, even though no one ever sees them, but he knows they’re there.”
Bennett said Glassman sometimes helped select details for his wardrobe, a plus for the designer and actor alike.
“He is so enthusiastic about his costumes. I think it really helps him find his character,” she said. “When I shop for him, I see it everywhere. I just know Rick will love it.”
“Undateable” premieres tonight on NBC and will air Thursdays at 9 / 8 Central.