EXCLUSIVE: We Chat with True Blood Costume Designer Audrey Fisher
One of the reasons I wanted to start the Fashion Profile series here on True-Blood.net was because I so admired what costume designer Audrey Fisher has done with the characters and hoped she would take it as the homage it was meant to be. Imagine our surprise when Audrey contacted us with the offer to talk about her work! Not only had she seen the series, she was tickled that we were so interested in the costumes and wanted to share more about what she does for True Blood.
Bitten by the Costume Bug
Audrey grew up sewing and making costumes, thanks to her mom who “was the best playmate”. Audrey’s mom took her to sewing classes and encouraged her daughter to explore the world of crafts and costumes. In college, Audrey wanted decided to study theater and attended NYU for the Performance Studies graduate degree. While she was there, a friend spotted some “crazy hats” Audrey was making for an art class and asked if she would create the costumes for a production of Medea in the East Village. That experience hooked Audrey on “building” costumes for the theater and she threw herself into the job. Through “a fortunate series of events”, after grad school Audrey went to Germany and Austria where she worked on costumes for the opera houses there, building everything from wigs to corsets to shoes. Following her time in Europe, Audrey worked in New York for a while before returning home to Los Angeles (she’s from Santa Monica) to create costumes for the theater there.
It was while she was working on a theater production with Melina Root, costume designer for That ’70s Show, that Audrey got her first opportunity to work on a television show. Root was preparing for the spin-off, That ’80s Show, and asked Audrey if she’d join her as an assistant costume designer on the show. Although the spin-off was short-lived, the television bug bit hard and Audrey joined the team working on That ’70s Show. As that series was coming to an end, Danny Glicker came by to purchase the costumes for a film he was preparing called We Are Marshall. As Audrey describes it, there was instant sympatico between them and she joined him to outfit the cast of that film. It was Danny who was originally hired as the costume designer on True Blood and Audrey as his assistant. When the writers’ strike hit, halting production for several months, Danny signed on to another project that prevented him from being able to work on the show when production resumed. Instead, he recommended Audrey for the job.
“It was the most amazing feeling that Danny recommended me so highly. And then they said ‘OK’!”
“I never thought I’d know so much about blood.”
Working on True Blood presents its own set of challenges and satisfactions. Audrey relates that the biggest challenges are the time constraints and finding the multiples of the outfits for filming. From prep to the final episode of True Blood’s second season, Audrey worked 80 hour weeks for seven months solid. We asked Audrey to walk us through the process of taking a costume from script to film, and boy was that an eye-opener! First comes the synopsis of an episode, then meeting with her team to plot out ideas, then meeting with Alan Ball and the episode’s director for further input and approval of the planned costumes, then actual procurement or production of the pieces, followed by fittings with the actors, “teching” for the camera (i.e. making a bright white shirt more a cream color in real life so it “reads” the right color on camera), tagging the costumes, and finally sending them to the costume truck where the team there makes sure the right costumes are worn the right way in every scene.
Are you tired yet?
Multiples of costumes are required both for the actors and their stunt doubles to withstand the rigors of filming and make sure continuity is intact. Especially with Sookie getting splashed by blood in every other scene. Says Audrey, “I never thought I’d know so much about blood. How to make it, how to get it out, how to keep it from staining the clothes…”
Audrey also told us that she finds a lot of the characters’ clothes at places like K-mart, Kohl’s, and JC Penney, where the characters would really shop. She does alter them sometimes, removing sleeves or changing collars to make them meet her vision, but her goal is to dress Tara, Sam and Co. in items that are realistic for them.
Her favorite character to dress is Sookie, and Audrey prefers to make as many pieces in her wardrobe as she can because Sookie’s style is so specific. As Sookie matures, falls in love with Bill, and learns more about the supernatural world, her style is subtly changing. Audrey enjoys collaborating with Anna Paquin about Sookie’s wardrobe, saying that costumes “play a giant part in finding the character in any scene”, so the actors are very interested in what they’ll be wearing.
Viking battles, the Roaring ’20s, and the Great Depression
This season we’ve been treated to several flashbacks as the vampire backstories are fleshed out. Audrey enjoys the opportunity to outfit the characters with costumes from different eras, from Viking armor to sophisticated ’30s evening gowns. Most of the costumes from the ’20s flashback were obtained from costume houses, but Audrey’s team constructed the lingerie – multiple sets – themselves since they were going to end up covered in blood. With plenty of lead time for the ’30s flashback, Audrey very happily set about making all of the costumes for Bill and Lorena, including that stunning green bias-cut satin gown.