“Sweetbitter”

August 6th, 2018

Anna Wyckoff

Costume Designer Catherine Marie Thomas drew vital clues from the material behind the novel that Starz’s Sweetbitter is based upon. “The nice thing about Stephanie (Danler) writing the book first is that she worked in New York restaurants including Union Street Cafe. She had her personal photos and a lot of the characters are based on real people, so the research for me was taking those people and then running with it. We wanted the characters to feel real, but also be super sexy and interesting, and sort of pull you into that world the way that that world does that, if that makes sense.”

Telling the story of Tess (Ella Purnell) involved showing the character’s development and growth in the long term. “It was about a girl who always knew she was going to end up in the big city. So, even though at first she’s not polished, she has an interesting aesthetic.” Developing that look for the first season meant culling together a closet of believable pieces that would visually demonstrate the character’s emotional progression.

A particularly intriguing aspect of the project for Thomas was opportunity to reveal personality subtly. “There’s this equalizing aspect of the uniform, and then a shift change happens and the characters start coming out of their shells. Every night you see the transformation of these people. That’s a very interesting visual narrative to tell.”

Thomas uses the ways people wear their uniforms and different colors as signifiers. Subtle reveals meant she had to put as much time and consideration into the rest of the ensemble cast, as she did the leads. Jake (Tom Sturridge) is a “classic bad boy” while Sasha (Daniyar) plays a cross-dressing Russian expatriate, and world-wise Simone (Caitlin FitzGerald) has an eclectic wardrobe made up of bits and pieces that Thomas collected during her travels. It’s the details that she finds the most telling. “Being truthful about people is interesting in and of itself and it’s hard in television, because so often you’re pushed to make it like Sex in the City. And that’s fine, that’s one story. But this is a different story. It’s a story about real people, and that’s what makes it fascinating.”

Sweetbitter is streaming on Starz.

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