Clockwise from left: Kacey Rohl as Jenna Engel, Benjamin Arthur as Jimmy Engel, Azura Skye as Sandy Karinsky Engel and Andrea Martin as Ceil Engel. Photo courtesy of NBC.

“Working the Engels”

July 11, 2014

“Working the Engels” is a new NBC ensemble comedy about a family trying to find its financial footing after the death of their lawyer father leaves them in a heap of debt. This dysfunctional family includes a narcissistic mother played by SCTV veteran Andrea Martin, an ex-con brother played by Benjamin Arthur, and as polar opposite sisters, Azura Skye and Kacey Rohl. It’s Rohl’s lawyer character who attempts to save the family finances, but it’s Skye’s flighty and fashionable sister who has the most entertaining costumes.

The combination of colorful personalities allows Costume Designer Anne Dixon to embellish archetypes, particularly the frivolous sister, Sandy Karinsky Engel (played by Skye). Sandy is a woman rebounding from divorce, drug and alcohol abuse and even a stint in a cult.

“Sandy is trying to find herself, but she’s all over the place. Sometimes she’s into the Bible, sometimes she’s into smudge sticks,” says Dixon.

“She is the funnest character to do. Azure would and can wear anything,” Dixon said. “She really came alive in the character via the costumes. We had some jewelry and accessories and all of a sudden she said, ‘I found Sandy.’”

To amplify the character’s try-anything personality, Dixon lets loose with spangles and bangles. Sandy’s hands and wrists are stacked with chunky rings and jangly bracelets and earrings big as art mobiles swing from her ears, making her gestures extra decorative and dramatic.

One featured costume is composed of a fluffy pink rabbit fur cropped jacket, an animal-print silk tank top and slim jeans slicked with a matte metallic overlay of snakeskin and roses. Sandy’s costumes regularly include animal prints and complex textures, which show that she’s kind of wild and untamed–a look that Dixon has to carefully modulate.

“They are very strong as a family, and you don’t want her stealing all the scenes. So the colors are a bit more muted, but the textures and fabrics are more garish and a bit louder,” Dixon said. “Andrea Martin [Ceil Engel] will have the bolder colors, but we’re trying to keep her contemporary and modern. We put her in blue jeans a lot. To counterbalance that we have Sandy who is the more bombastic eye candy.”

The fun doesn’t end with Sandy’s costumes, however. “Working the Engels” is given to occasional outrageousness, which means that Dixon can find herself scrambling to make saloon girl getups, a caveman loincloth or, to make light of Dutch characters, gouda “cheesehead” headgear.

“The wonderful thing about ‘Working the Engels’ is that they are trying to keep it fresh,” said Dixon. “The night before they could have a brilliant idea and the next thing you know we have to make Gouda heads for them.”

“Working the Engels” airs Thursdays on NBC at 9:30/8:30 p.m. Central.

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