Maniac

Oct. 29th, 2018

Anna Wyckoff

Exactly how to classify a project set in the unconscious minds of characters in a drug-induced, shared dream state is still a conundrum for Costume Designer Jenny Eagan. When the story for Netflix’s Maniac leaps back and forth from a time period resembling the 1980s into the ‘40s or to the ‘90s, does that make it a period piece? When they find themselves in a dream world complete with fairies and armor, does that make it fantasy? No matter what genre it might fall under, designing a show that defies classification was an amazing challenge and opportunity.

For her leads, Eagan had to take into consideration not just the periods, but the mindset of mental patients in an experimental drug trial. “Owen [Jonah Hill] has been diagnosed with schizophrenia,” she says. “I wanted to keep him tight and concise clothing, yet in something he’d find comfortable. His suit or tie might change, but the silhouette is always consistent.” She dressed him and Annie [Emma Stone] in a slightly stronger color palette than the rest of the characters, so they would pop in the otherwise mundane hues of the show’s “real” world. “It’s almost like they’re elevated, moving through this very dull life,” Eagan explains.

Having a rich concept for the background characters was equally important. For instance, the lab workers were inspired by her research into Japanese laboratory and factory workers. “They have specific colors for different jobs within the lab,” Eagan explains. “So, they’re in uniform, but very colorful.” In another sequence the leads fight off a group of opponents dressed in 1950s silhouettes in black and white. “I wanted it to look like it could be the same man coming at them over and over.” Eagan reveled in grounding the shifting plot in real life details that imbue the fantasy with credibility.

Despite the whirlwind pace of the project, Eagan found the experience invaluable. She credits her efficient crew and a great working relationship with director CaryJoji Fukunaga for making the scope possible in an abbreviated timeframe. “I don’t know how it all got done,” she says, “but ever since I think, ‘If I could do that then I can do anything.’”

Maniac is streaming on Netflix.

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