How Jeremy Pope built his Hollywood character through his costumes
The Golden Age of Hollywood is impossibly glamorous, so naturally getting the right look was the first order of business for much of the Hollywood cast.
Costumes are always a crucial part of an actor's process, but when it comes to a period piece where everything from undergarments to shoes to hair is so far from our daily life, it becomes even more essential.
As Darren Criss said on EW's Around the Table series, "[These outfits were] instantly transporting you back to this beautiful time. The clothes change the way you walk and you talk and the way you hold your cigarette and the way you light it and the way you put your glass down, and it sort of just dictates this entire oeuvre which is almost like this fantasy world, even though it was a real time."
Perhaps more than any other member of the cast, Jeremy Pope, who plays screenwriter Archie Coleman, turned to his character's clothes to bolster Archie's journey. Pope came to Los Angeles fairly early in the process, granting him the chance to really build his character's closet over several days of lengthy fittings, allowing him to get comfortable with the clothes.
"When I would come in for a scene, we could just spend 30 minutes meeting and just pick, 'What would Archie wear today?'" Pope details. "That was cool to know that I was able to be in that conversation and feel what felt right on me. It felt so seamless when you would have shoot days and I could come in and say, 'I don't like that. Let me try this.'"
As the only black man in the room in many scenes, Pope recognized that Archie would need a touchstone to give him confidence. He found it in his clothes. "I love the style of the '40s and '50s and the tailoring of the pants; [there's] just so much swag and that was one of the things that I wanted Archie to have," he adds. "The hair, the clothes got to be to the nines. [What if he has] a woman's watch and that was his mom's watch and everybody asks him where he got it. I was creating all types of stories for Archie because I needed him to feel confident. I knew at the base of this he is going into these rooms and is going to face so much adversity that he needs to be confident. It started with what he wore."
Part of that interest in being well-dressed stemmed from Pope's fascination with famed writer James Baldwin, whose style influenced his portrayal of Archie. "Archie and James were cut from the same cloth, both visionaries and very confident in who they are and smarter than the current generation they're involved with," he elaborates. "Archie exists in a time where he was asking to stake claim in an industry that wasn't built for him, which led me to believe that he had to be super fearless."
Much of the cast felt similarly, finding their costumes almost more useful for placing themselves in the right mindset than a more academic approach to research. For some, it was even more personal. One of Holland Taylor's costumes was a recreation of an ensemble her mother was wearing in a photograph she shared with the production team.
Criss recounts numerous sequences where he would gush over whatever outfit one of his costars was wearing. "Every day you would show up and I would look at the other actors and go, 'Oh my God, you guys look amazing. Look at you.' I can't tell you how many pictures I have with Patti LuPone and both of us just fawning over each other's look and wardrobe," he says. "Anytime I'm in a fedora and a cigarette and a jacket, you just feel like the coolest mother f---er that ever walked the globe."
Of course, while it might look glamorous from the outside, Criss points out the extra hilarity provided by movie magic. "My favorite moments on set are where you'd see the women, particularly of Holland Taylor and Patti LuPone looking so ravishing, and they, of course, would be wearing their UGG shoes or their modern sunglasses. That always cracked me up, seeing Patti LuPone in slippers, but this amazing outfit and these really silly sunglasses."
Watch the video above for more. Hollywood is now streaming on Netflix.