Costume designer: Creating looks for genre-spanning 'Afterparty' was 'wild ride'

From left to right, Poppy Liu, Vivian Wu, Ken Jeong and Zoe Chao star in "Afterparty." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 5 | From left to right, Poppy Liu, Vivian Wu, Ken Jeong and Zoe Chao star in "Afterparty." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Costume designer Meredith Markworth-Pollack says it was a tremendous challenge dressing the cast of Afterparty for Season 2 because the contemporary mystery-comedy included a luxe wedding, as well as episodes variously featuring looks with Jane Austen, film noir, psychological thriller and western vibes.

Created by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the series wraps its second season Wednesday on Apple TV+.


The new episodes show Season 1 veterans Danner (Tiffany Haddish), Aniq (Sam Richardson) and Zoë (Zoë Chao) reuniting to solve another bizarre murder with a houseful of suspects.

This time, the victim is Edgar (Zach Woods), the tech giant whom Zoë's sister Grace (Poppy Liu) married hours before he was found dead in their bed.

In each episode, a different character offers an account of what he or she saw leading up to the night in question.


Their clothing and mannerisms -- and the episode's staging, lighting and music -- reflect the storyteller's perspective, with flashbacks allowing them to star in their own mini-movies.

The ensemble also includes John Cho, Paul Walter Hauser, Ken Jeong, Anna Konkle, Elizabeth Perkins, Jack Whitehall and Vivian Wu.

"After I read the first couple of episodes and I had watched Season 1, I paused for a minute and I reached out to the producers and the creatives and said, 'Wait, wait, wait! So each episode is a completely different genre, so the costumes need to change to each genre?'" Markworth-Pollack told UPI in a recent phone interview.

"They were like, 'Yeah!'" she laughed. "And I said, 'This is a huge undertaking. Do you guys realize what an accomplishment that would be to be able to do that?'

"And they said, 'Yeah, but we have faith in you!' And I was like, 'OK, here we go!' And we all just buckled up after that because it was a wild ride."

The costume designer -- who has created the wardrobes for the casts of the Dynasty reboot, Reign and Hart of Dixie -- said everyone in the huge Afterparty cast had lots of different looks that incorporated assigned color palettes.


Adding to the challenge was that the characters don't simply star in their own stories. They also play parts in other people's accounts of what happened and need to be dressed accordingly.

"We had to stick within that color wave, stick within their personal genre and the story that their clothes were telling specifically to their character and how they related in the overall theme," Markworth-Pollack said.

"Then [we tweaked] them for each episode, sometimes very, very subtly, in a way that only a super keen eye would notice and sometimes gargantuanly and over-the-top to make it really feel like that new theme for the episode really hit home."

The cast members recognized this was no easy feat and went out of their way to show Markworth-Pollack and her team how grateful they were for their efforts and expertise.

"This was my first time working on a comedy and after our first fitting, I turned to my assistant and the team and I said, 'What have I been doing all these years? Why haven't I been working on comedies?' Everyone would come in so excited, so ready, so down, so open, co creative," she said.

Cho, who plays Zoe and Grace's adventurous "funcle" Ulysses, was one of Markworth-Pollack's favorite people to dress.


"His retelling spanned over three decades and there are dance numbers. It's so wild and he was like, 'Let's do this!'" she said. "He ended up having something like 26 costumes."

Konkle -- who plays Edgar's sister Hannah -- was enthralled by the brown, beige and orange twee looks she wore in her Wes Anderson-style flashback, as well as the genteel, early 19th-century British frocks she donned for Grace's Pride & Prejudice-inspired story.

"She was loving all of the period stuff and also the Wes Anderson" clothing, Markworth-Pollack said of Konkle.

"Even though it was contemporary, it was so specific with the color wave and the patterns and with the color blocking we were doing."

The designer said she can sense how actors feel about their costumes by the way they walk onto the set, and she knew this cast was having fun with its period suits and gowns.

"They would walk in in their Jane Austen looks and the rest of the cast and crew would be applauding them and they would bow and curtsy," she added.

"That always made me and the costume team feel so happy because you could tell how appreciative they were and how excited they were about what they were wearing."


Because the show is a comedy with a lot of stunts and messiness, Markworth-Pollack also needed duplicates of numerous items.

"There's a lot of getting sprayed with white chocolate and falling over," the designer said.

"We ended up custom-building much more than I had anticipated. At least 50% of the costumes were made," instead of bought off the rack, she added.

Working with actors during the coronavirus pandemic also posed challenges because, for at least part of the time, everyone was wearing face masks.

"It's already so intimate and when you can't truly see each other's faces, it does add a layer of slight discomfort," Markworth-Pollack said.

"You're trying to talk with your eyes and say, 'Look, I'm a gentle, open, compassionate person and you probably are, too, and before you are asked to change in front of me, let's have a conversation first.'"

Even before the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes shut down most productions in North America, Markworth-Pollack started focusing her talents and energies on Palma Colectiva, a wellness studio and shop she recently opened in California.


"I keep joking that it's the first time I've ever timed anything right in my life because, with TV and film production, timing is always such a mess," she said.

"But I happened to get this other project of mine going without having any idea that the strikes were going to happen, so that worked out really well for me and I kind of shifted."

She also hopes to bring the wellness and mindfulness conversation to women who work in TV and film production.

"It's more important than ever because so many people are really struggling, not working right now," Markworth-Pollack said. "That's been a really beautiful transition for addressing the impact of working in production has on our mental and physical well-being."

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