“Santa Clarita Diet”

February 14, 2017

Anna Wyckoff

Costume Designer Mona May and producer and star Drew Barrymore’s collaborations have spanned decades. The two join forces again for Netflix’s new comedic horror show, Santa Clarita Diet. “Drew and I met almost twenty years ago on The Wedding Singer with Adam Sandler,” May says, “Then I did Never Been Kissed with her, which was one of her production company, Flower Films’ first features. The two movies really solidified our friendship and we’re able to bring the same relationship to this project.” May feels that because of this rapport and their shared approach toward style, she is able to work more efficiently to create the looks for the series.

Santa Clarita Diet is Barrymore’s first foray into television. “It’s not like a movie,” May explains, “this is non-stop and Drew is in every scene. Between the stunts, the blood, and getting washed for the next scene, this is a lot. I think being able to have a design shorthand was tremendous.”

The story follows married realtors, as wife Sheila (Drew Barrymore) transforms into a zombie that eats human flesh. The show revels in its portrayal of everyday people in the quiet Los Angeles town of Santa Clarita. May conducted part of her research on the street and found that locals bore a striking stylistic similarity to Angelenos. May says, “Between the internet and Gap, suburbia is pretty cool and current. It maybe a bit conservative and not super rich, so we had to think about that, but all the clothes have the flair of California living.”

At the beginning, Sheila’s looks epitomize a working mom: patterned blouses, suits, and sensible heels. However, as the storyline develops in subsequent episodes and Sheila begins to change, she also finds herself as a woman. May expresses her empowerment through slicker clothing choices: more black, tighter jeans, and boots. “As the show progresses, crazy stuff starts happening. There’s an arc to her character, which happens because of this weird event [becoming a zombie]. Eating human flesh gives her kind of power. It’s almost a little bit superhero-ish to a point,” May says with a chuckle.

The husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant) is the heart of the family. May sees him as a “regular Joe” who just wants to keep his family together. His costumes have an approachable ordinariness—button downs and khakis. Also, his clothes are very lived in and comfortable. Their daughter Liv (Abby Hammond) is strong willed. May puts her in funky pieces ranging from vintage items to coveralls, for a look that’s young and fun. Her mother’s empowerment rubs off on her and, interestingly (to support the secret), the family unit becomes stronger.

Many multiples are an inevitability of any show with blood. But May notes her department was lucky in that the horror scenes are “soft zombie,” i.e. the audience only sees the aftermath, not the actual killing of a victim, which would have involved much more blood.

May’s use of color is one of the signatures of her Costume Design. “I always interject more color, because I think that color tells a story,” she enthuses. In this tale, May strategically moves from brights to darker, cooler tones. Because the show’s visuals are grounded in a breezy, California aesthetic, it has an easy visual appeal that runs counter the shocking plot. May says, “Because it’s such a fantastical story, the whole environment and clothing had to be as normal as possible. That’s really the charm of the show.”

Santa Clarita Diet is streaming on Netflix.

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