At right: actor James Wolk as Jackson Oz in "Zoo." Photo courtesy of CBS.

At right: actor James Wolk as Jackson Oz in “Zoo.” Photos courtesy of CBS.

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July 3, 2015

Valli Herman

In “Zoo,” the new CBS scripted thriller, the eyes can be deceiving. Animals worldwide are preying on humans in unprovoked encounters. In Africa, American zoologist and safari guide Jackson Oz (James Wolk) notices a strange eye mutation in lions that attacked tourists on safari.

As the mysterious and violent behavior spreads worldwide—even to pet cats in ritzy Los Angeles neighborhoods—Oz is thrust into the race to solve the mystery before humans everywhere become victims.

Production for the globetrotting tale, based on James Patterson’s bestseller, is based in New Orleans, but the clever sets and costumes transform parts of Louisiana into African plains, Japanese towns and even Paris and Washington D.C. Also starring Kristen Connolly, Billy Burke, Nora Arnezeder and Nonso Anozie, “Zoo” transports viewers into other worlds with the help of carefully observed costume details.

“On this show, the background changes more than the foreground,” said Costume Designer Caroline Marx. “You know where in the world they are based on their clothes. The big thing for me is that background is its own character every single week.”

She and Assistant Costume Designer Michelle Green dutifully researched the variances in style and dress in the show’s many locations.

“Whenever we’re supposed to be in Paris, I make sure all the suits are colorful and super-fitted, and that they wear brown shoes instead of dark shoes with dark suits, like in the U.S,” Marx said. The costume team also has created African tribes and militia members, gangster pirates and Tokyo Harajuku girls.

“Everybody can’t wait till we shoot a new airport in a new country because we always do something really fun with the flight attendants and the pilot,” Marx said.

To give the lead character his safari guide cred, Marx pulled authentic outdoor brands to create a wardrobe.

“It’s all real stuff,” said Marx. In the pilot, Oz wears an ExOfficio khaki shirt with flap pockets, Patagonia cargo pants and Ecco brown suede lace-up boots. Even his accessories are safari chic: a woven double-D ring belt from REI and a rugged Diesel watch with a camouflage strap. Only his Rag & Bone T-shirt is from a fashion line, but its heavier weight, vintage-looking collar and weave made it durable—and warm for the chilly shoots.

“It took us several fittings to get this right. James is such a good-looking guy. He came to me with no beard and this beautiful baby face. We needed to make him rugged,” Marx said. “So I went up a size, to make him look a little bulkier.”

The Ecco boots also added to the realism. “They were so heavy, they made him walk differently.”

“Zoo” airs on CBS Tuesdays at 9 p.m./8 p.m. Central.

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