Creating The Clone Club: Castor

“We wanted a weird bad guy,” says John Fawcett. “When I watch television, so often I feel like a lot of the casting feels generic. I’m looking for a mix of something compelling from a physical point of view, which makes you just want to look at them, and someone who brings an energy or interpretation to a character that you weren’t expecting. That’s what I got from Ari.”

John Fawcett to Rolling Stone

At the end of season two, it’s revealed that the donor of the DNA used to create Alison, Cosima, and their sisters also donated male DNA, giving the series the project Castor. Unlike the ladies in project Lyda, the male clones were raised self-aware, together, and by the military to become the perfect soldiers. Now, who could possibly match Tatiana Maslany’s performance for her male counterparts?

Ari Millen had already been cast as Mark, a former soldier and member of the extremist religious group the Proletheans, who was tasked with kidnapping one of the Lyda clones. His character originally wasn’t intended to survive the season, but showrunners Graeme Manson and John Fawcett decided Millen was too good to kill off. So halfway through filming, Millen had to determine how he would move forward and play each of his new roles.

Unlike Maslany’s challenge of creating completely different characters for each character, Millen’s challenge was to make each of his clones similar. With the same exact upbringing, military training, and life experiences, it’s only natural that they would have more similarities than differences.

Despite their similarities, they still had to be distinct from each other. In an interview with Teddy Wilson from the CTV Sci-fi channel, Millen described his process for becoming those characters to be a visual one.

“..for me, it was I think it was more of a visual process. Like I said, every day I would put my costume on, go to hair and makeup and get a scar on or get a mustache on or what-have-you. And I would sort of look at myself in the mirror and say okay right I’m Rudy today. Rudy who’s Rudy and sort of drip into the choices and the decision of what makes Rudy, Rudy and what makes Seth, Seth or Mark, Mark.”

Ari Millen

Mark is the first of the Castor clones we see this visual process take place in. While he has the bearing and manners of a soldier. In an attempt to break free and allow his softer side to show, he has abandoned the military and his brothers to take up the ideals and style of the Proletheans. Reminiscences of the Mormon LDS, the Proletheans have a very midwest style. Double-breasted button-downs, jeans, brown jackets, and cowboy boots are the Proletheans and Mark wardrobe staples. While he eventually leaves them he maintains the style as a way to feel separate and unique from his brothers.

Ari Millen as Mark
Ari Millen as Mark
Right: Ari Millen as Mark Left:Tatiana Maslany as Helena
Ari Millen as Mark
Right: Ari Millen as Mark Left:

Seth, Rudy, and Styles are precisely what the military intended Caster to become. Each of them are experts at what they do, whether that be tracking, surveillance, or following orders, they are the best, and their wardrobe reflects that. Seth and Rudy are investing reasons and solutions to the degenerative brain disease they are all suffering from. Their mission requires them to move a lot and be inconspicuous. They wear almost exactly the same thing, a grey hoodie, sweat pants, and back sneakers, making it easy to hide quickly. Seth’s only distinguishing feature is his mustache, while Rudy has a large scar on his face and a navy jacket. Styles is definitely the model soldier. Never out of uniform, he is always doing exactly what is needed of him without question.

Ari Millen as Rudy
Ari Millen as Styles
Ari Millen as
Ari Millen as Rudy
Ari Millen as Seth
Ari Millen as Rudy

Being raised in the care of a project Lyda leader, Ira led a privileged life that allowed him to become a mild-mannered doctor with a superiority complex and sense of entitlement over his brothers. This reflects his upbringing and position as a doctor at the Dyad Institute. His crisp white doctor’s uniform is unique. It’s not your average lab coat, with short sleeves, a stand-up collar, and double-breasted with what seems to be a velcro closure. The coat is clean and modern, reflecting the institute’s value of pushing forward technology. Growing up outside the military also exposed him to the finer things in life. Always the figure of refinement in a monochromatic wardrobe, Ira wears fine suits with wool paints and v-neck sweaters. Unlike his brother he rarely losses control and dresses to reflect that control.

Ari Millen as Ira
Ari Millen as Ira
Ari Millen as Ira

Ari Millen as Ira
Ari Millen as Ira

Next week, we will be getting back into the Leda ladies with the greatest sleuth of them all, Krystal.

Want to catch up on previous editions of “Creating The Clone Club” ? Click this link for the full collection.


Want to know more? Check out my sources.

Fallon, Kevin. “Ari Millen, the Genius Behind’ Orphan Black’s’ Shocking Male Clones.” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 17 Apr. 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/ari-millen-the-genius-behind-orphan-blacks-shocking-male-clones.

Ross, Dalton. “Ari Millen Reveals ‘Orphan Black’ Intel on the Male Clones.” EW.com, Entertainment Weekly, ew.com/article/2015/03/11/ari-millen-reveals-orphan-black-intel-male-clones/.

Ryan, Patrick. “Meet the Face of ‘Orphan Black’ Male Clones.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 17 Apr. 2015, http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2015/04/16/orphan-black-ari-millen-clone/25828629/.

Shattuck, Kathryn. “Ari Millen of ‘Orphan Black’ on Being a Clone and a Dad.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 Apr. 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/26/arts/television/ari-millen-of-orphan-black-on-being-a-clone-and-a-dad.html.

Wood, Jennifer. “Meet ‘Orphan Black’ ‘s New Clone on the Block: Ari Millen.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 25 June 2018, http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-news/meet-orphan-blacks-new-clone-on-the-block-ari-millen-54783/.

Wilson, Teddy. “A Talk of the Clones: Ari Millen.” YouTube, CTV Sci-Fi Channel, 24 June 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJy21hsVf9U.

Images are courtesy of BBC America.

Creating the Clone Club: Cosima Niehaus

When talking to Vanity Fair, makeup artist Stephen Lyne described Cosima Niehaus as “The girl who has gone her own way completely since high school. Her perspective is: I am my own person. I am an alternative to all of you.” Cosima embodies and holds onto this strong sense of self as she is one of the first clones to become self-aware and contact other clones. As a Ph.D. student in experimental evolutionary development, she can understand their origins in a way the others can’t and not allow the reality of their conception to shake her sense of self like Alsion. Cosima’s story primarily revolves around her study into their biology created by Dyad Institute through Project Leda and the cause of the deadly respiratory diseases affecting many of them, including her. Her search leads her into a fight with the corporation that created them, an on-again-off-again relationship with girlfriend Delphian. But ultimately, a family that understands and accepts her.

Through all of this, Cosima is not afraid to express her defiant, nerdy, punk, laid back California girl attitude through how she styles herself. Cosima’s style is well established in the first season. Her style is unique. I imagine her style inspiration comes from a youth spent as a goth or scene kid shopping at Hot-Topic while also being raised in the very laid back setting of a houseboat around San Francisco. This esthetic is represented through the muted colors, crocheted lace tops, subtle patterns, and funky scarfs—her array of jewelry and accessories express her free spirit. However, much of the time, this is covered up by her lab coat. The lab coat is her most crucial piece of costume because it represents her ultimate goal of finding a cure to her illness. As eye-catching as her wardrobe is, Cosima’s hair and make-up are what allow her to stand out.

Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus
Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus
Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus
Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus

Cosima’s hair also got some outside inspiration from inside the wardrobe department, “This lovely lady who is in wardrobe had her hair white blond with these dreadlocks and she always kind of wore it like that. In my mind she was like Cosima, so I tried my own version of it.” Lead Hairstylist Sandy Sokolowski shared this inspiration with Vanity Fair. With Glamour, she shared how she managed to make such a heavy-looking piece as light as a feather, “I use an old theater technique where we build a cage with wire and crepe hair and sew appliances to it. Although it looks substantial, less is more, and it’s about the movement of the hair.”

Cosima’s makeup is a staple of her look with heavy eye makeup and simple lips. This lack of lipstick creates a visual mark of how sick she is getting. The paler and more chapped they become the worse off you know she is. The most defining features of her makeup are her arched drawn eyebrows and heavy eyeliner. Lynch found the inspiration for his look in a student of his, “She would draw on extreme brows that went sky high or they were really arched. It’s that heavy eyeliner that is extended inward and outward at the corners.” He used this inspiration framed with a pair of thick Cat-eye style glasses to drawn your attention to her eyes, the one part of each that can’t be altered on the clones. But for Cosima, her eyes are a symbol of her intelligence and search for knowledge.

Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus

It’s this search that allows Cosima to create the life she wants for herself. A life full of love and family and freedom from those who sought cage her in. Next week we’ll ver-off course a little a take a look at the clones that were breed to live in a cage, the Castor boys.

Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus
Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus
Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus

Want to know more? Check out my sources.

Miller, Julie. “Here’s How Orphan Black Transforms Tatiana Maslany Into a Cast of Clones.” Vanity Fair, 2015, http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/04/orphan-black-clones.

Trudeau, Tessa. “On the Orphan Black Set: We’ve Got All the Costume Details!” InStyle, 2014, http://www.instyle.com/fashion/costume-department-insider-orphan-black.

Shapouri, Beth. “How Much Cosima’s Wig Weighs and Other Shocking Hair Secrets From Orphan Black.” Glamour, Glamour, 12 Jan. 2016, http://www.glamour.com/story/how-much-cosimas-wig-weighs-an.

Cosima is only called upon once to impersonate one of her sisters when she finds herself at one of Alison’s campaign events while Alison’s m.i.a.

Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus being Alison Hendrix
Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus being Alison Hendrix

Creating the Clone Club: Alison Hendrix

Warning, Spoilers for Orphan Black seasons 1-5. 

Within the first three minutes of Orphan Black, a BBC America tv series created by John Fawcett and Graeme Manson create a gripping series when Sarah Manning locks eyes with a woman in distress who looks exactly like her. Before she can ask any questions, the woman walks in front of the oncoming train, and Sarah makes the rash decision to steal her identity. This scene launches five seasons of a series that revolves around a group of illegal human clones trying to find the truth about their origins, save their lives, and find family. This series’s success relied on a combination of technical achievement, tour-de-force performance by Tatiana Maslany, and a master class in creating characters through hair, makeup, and costume. 

While the concept itself was difficult enough for directors, writers, camera, and editing teams to execute, the whole series hinged on who they decided to cast as the clones. These roles went to Tatiana Maslany, who played fourteen clone characters over the five-season run. Earing two Emmy nominations and one win.  

For Maslany, this was a massive undertaking. She had to create distinct mannerisms, accents, and personalities for each clone and then take those characters to develop each episode regularly, playing off herself. There are literally scenes where the only characters are the clones, and Maslany manages to make it work by giving each clone a distinctive personality. While this makes the series compelling and exciting, it’s the difference in each character’s look that offers viewers the visual cues needed to distinguish them as different characters, not just clones. This challenge was taken on by costume designers Laurie Drew and Debra Hanson

Tatiana Maslany as Sara Manning
Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix
Tatiana Maslany as Sara Manning and double Kathryn Alexandre as Rachel

In season one, Laurie Drew created the wardrobe template for the core cast of clones, Alison, Cosima, Rachel, Sara, and Helena. She made a distinct look for each that reflected their role in society and their environment. After the first season, Debra Hanson took over as the wardrobe’s head for the rest of the series. She followed the template set by Drew as new clones were introduced while also evolving the wardrobe of those already present. Few of the clones go through more evolution on the show than Alison Hendrix. 

In an interview with Vanity Fair, lead hairstylist on the show, Sandy Sokolowski perfectly summed up Alison’s personality “Alison is always riding this line between being the perfect suburban mother and an insane person at the same time.” Of all the sisters in the clone club, Alison Hendrix is the only one with a sub-plot that doesn’t revolve around the quest to find answers and freedom. The revelation that she’s a clone out brings out the worst of her neurotic behavior and throws her substance abuse tendency into over-driver, cracking the suburban housewife facade. Despite all of this, Alison copes with dark humor and keeps the perfect athleisure soccer mom look.

Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix

Since every character is played by Maslany, the differences between them need to be evident as soon as you look them in the face. This distinction starts with her hair and makeup. When talking with Vanity Fair, makeup artist Stephen Lynch described his thought process behind Alison’s perfect pink lips and purple eye makeup, “She found her makeup look in high school and never changed it.”, this makes a lot of sense. Alison is continually going on about how she wants her life to go back to her pre-clone life. It makes sense that in her pre-clone life, she wanted to go back to a simpler time when she didn’t have to worry so much about being watched and scrutinized by her neighbors. This scrutiny led Alison to have the tightly wound personality that is reflected in her pin-straight hair, perfect high ponytail, and bangs. However, Sokolowski put in small details to show the cracks, “The hair might have looked good front-on when you look at it in the mirror, but from the back it looks a little bit crazy.” While Alison’s hair may betray the inner anxiety, her wardrobe is never anything but soccer mom perfect. 

Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix

With her children heavily involved in various sports, some of which Alison coaches, Athleisure is a staple of Alison’s wardrobe. From the first moment we meet her, the staples of Alison’s look are a tight long-sleeved shirt with thumb stilts with a puffer vest or jacket, yoga pants, and tennis shoes. In this, she’s showing those around her that she’s a mom on the move, ready for anything. 

Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix
Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix
Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix

This is also the look Alsion presents when she decides to run to be a trustee on the school board. During her campaign, she punches this look to be more approachable with pinks and campaign paraphernalia. 

Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix
Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix
Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix

When talking with InStyle costume department set supervisor Peter Webster said that Alison is “that kind of housewife/mom, where everything’s steamed and pressed.”  This statement could not be more accurate. When not chauffeuring her kids around or campaigning, Alison is the model housewife. She wears collared button-down shirts, sweaters, dark wash jeans, and the only accessory she wears besides her wedding ring, a cross necklace. As part of her effort to be the perfect housewife, she is also a devout churchgoer, often emploring the on high for answers. Through the series, Alison often finds herself involved in various church functions and on the receiving end of many pep talks from her reverend. Her modest dress and necklace are a nod to this ongoing devotion. 

Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix
Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix
Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix

Alison sticks to this look through almost the entire series. That is until she decides to go on a vacation of self-discovery to Florida. When she comes back she looks like an entirely different person and says she’s exploring her “shadow self”. As a result of this exploration, Alison has decided to go for a more artsy look or at least what a housewife would consider artsy. For Alison, artsy means getting a bob with purple highlights that match her eyeshadow and flowing bohemian tops. For Alison, this is an outward symbol of her letting go of the standards she thought she had to live but now realizes she never did. It is also the culmination of Alison’s journey through the series. For Alison discovering she’s a clone allowed her to realize that she doesn’t need to live up to others’ expectations and free to do whatever she wants with her life.  

Next week we’ll dive into a clone who always lived her life to the fullest, Cosima. 

Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix
Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix
Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix


Want to know more? Check out my sources.

Miller, Julie. “Here’s How Orphan Black Transforms Tatiana Maslany Into a Cast of Clones.” Vanity Fair, 2015, http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/04/orphan-black-clones.

Trudeau, Tessa. “On the Orphan Black Set: We’ve Got All the Costume Details!” InStyle, 2014, http://www.instyle.com/fashion/costume-department-insider-orphan-black.

“InnerSpace – Orphan Black: Behind the Scenes of ‘Gag of Throttle.'” CTV Sci-Fi Channel , 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOa2xMr2uIk.

In the series the sisters often need to impersonate each other. Here are the times Alison had to be Sara.

Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix being Sara Manning
Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix being Sara Manning

Designing Fear: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

As the 20th century drew to a close, Dracula was a familiar figure with a look and story that anyone could identify at a glance. From Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee and countless adaptations, the character seemed to be played out. That is until Francis Ford Coppola decided to breathe new life into the character with his 1992 adaptation Bram Stocker’s Dracula. 

Coppola brought a new life and depth to Dracula and with Gary Oldman’s performance, he was now more than an evil specter of the night obsessed with blood, he was also a character we could sympathize with. A new look was in order for this new kind of Dracula, and Coppola knew precisely who he wanted to create it, Eiko Ishioka

Eiko Ishioka was not known for her costume design when Coppolla hired her. Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1938, Ishioka started her career in advertising. Know for her avant-garde and evocative ads, it is no wonder that she was hired to design the Japanese poster for Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now. He was struck by her work and developed a close working relationship and friendship. 

At the start of the production, Coppola declared, “The costumes will be the set,” making the unusual decision to put the bulk of his budget towards costumes and not sets. He wanted costumes to be visually exciting set pieces, and set the film’s atmosphere and believed Ishioka could achieve this. Although she only had two costume credits and a handful of production design credits, Coppola knew her distinct creative style was what the film needed. This collaboration resulted in animalistic features to the characters, and a distinctive east meets west to look for the film. For her Dracula, Ishioka wanted it to feel like he was continually transforming. So she didn’t make a one costume fits all previous adaptions had. Instead, she created seven distinct costumes to create a visually stunning story for Dracula. Of those four truly stand out. 

Francis Ford Coppola and Eiko Ishioka

Dracula’s Armour 

This terrifying armor suit is how Dracula is introduced to us while still the human Transylvanian prince heading off to defend his land. Ishioka loaded symbolism and foreshadowing into this suit. The crimson color makes him the center of every scene and refers to the blood he’s about to shed while also alluding to the blood be will later drink. The muscle like pattern of the amour resembles flayed skin, referring to the historical figure Bram Stoker based his count on. The silhouette is created by the armor is striking, with the helmet resembling the head of a wolf, which he would later become. Coppola uses this design beautifully during the opening battlefield scene when he backlights the set creating silhouettes of everyone on screen. 

Gary Oldman as Dracula

Dracula’s Red Robe

By the time Jonathan Harker meets Dracula, wears a long flowing robe, and a white gown with long white hair, a far cry from the strong battle-hardened warrior. The voluminous kimono-inspired crimson red robe has his family crest embroidered in gold trails several feet behind him. The look is topped off by a great wig giving him an otherworldly look. This shows how Dracula has become enveloped by his past and cannot change in his current environment. 

Gary Oldman as Dracula
Gary Oldman as Dracula
Gary Oldman as Dracula

Dracula’s London Suit

The closest Ishioka gets to a classic Dracula costume is the beautiful three-piece suit he wears upon arriving in England. While it’s a far cry from the tuxedo and cape that helped hide the intentions of previous Draculas, this charcoal suit provides the same purpose. While not as dramatic as the cape, the overcoat obscures his figure, the top hat gives him some cover, and the sunglasses hide the emotions of changing eyes.  

Gary Oldman as Dracula
Winnona Ryder as Mina Murry and Gary Oldman as Dracula
Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Oldman as Dracula

Dracula’s Gold Robe

When discussing the inspiration for the film’s look, Coppola showed Ishioka many Klimt paintings. So, when creating Dracula’s costumes, she took particular inspiration from Klimt’s painting, The Kiss, for what would be his final look. Dracula wears a gold robe when resting to recover his power at the end of the movie. Much like the painting, the robe is made of a patchwork of different gold blocks with varying patterns giving the garment richness and depth. The robe also resembles priests vestments. This becomes symbolic as Dracula reconciles his life and his relationship with God at the end of the film. 

Gary Oldman as Dracula
Winnona Ryder as Mina Murry and Gary Oldman as Dracula
Gary Oldman as Dracula

Ishioka creates a stunning, dynamic, and emotionally rich film that released Dracula from his iconic look through these costumes. For this masterful visual storytelling, Ishioka won the Academy Award for Costume Design in 1992. Ishioka created many stunning and iconic costumes until her death in 2012, but her reimagining of Dracula remains her most lasting impact on film. 

Eiko Ishioka
Concept Sketch by Eiko Ishioka
Eiko Ishioka
Eiko Ishioka’s Academy Awards acceptance speech.

Want to know more? Check out my sources.

  1. “How an Apocalypse Now Poster Led to Oscar-Winning Costumes for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 13 Nov. 2015, http://www.oscars.org/news/how-apocalypse-now-poster-led-oscar-winning-costumes-bram-stokers-dracula.
  2. Codega, Linda. “Inside the Costumes of ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula.’” The Spool, 15 Sept. 2020, thespool.net/features/2020/09/costumes-bram-stokers-dracula/.
  3. “Eiko Ishioka.” IMDb, IMDb.com, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0411130/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cr19.
  4. Academy, The. “How Eiko Ishioka’s Revolutionary Costumes Won Coppola’s ‘Dracula’ an Oscar.” Medium, ART & SCIENCE, 12 July 2017, medium.com/art-science/how-francis-ford-coppola-s-choice-to-work-with-a-weirdo-outsider-led-to-an-oscar-dd22bdf51e2a.
  5. “Celebrating Eiko Ishioka’s Extraordinary Costumes for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 13 July 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/eiko-ishioka-japanese-costume-designer-google-doodle-bram-stokers-dracula-gary-oldman-winona-ryder-francis-ford-coppola-a7836536.html.

Designing Fear: Vampira

Tall, dark, and sexy, this glamorously morose woman is an image we’re all familiar with, but few know the name or origins of televisions first horror movie host, Vampira.

Maila Nurmi as Vampira

Vampira was the creation of Maila Nurmi, a pinup model, and actress looking to start a career on television. While Maila had a successful career as a pinup model, she still hadn’t been able to break into film and decided the emerging medium of television might be where she needed to be. In 1953, she was invited to Hollywood choreographer Lester Horton’s annual Halloween ball. Maila thought this was her chance to be recognized by producers. In preparation to catch producers’ eye, Maila researched what was popular on tv and what might be missing. She realized that a satire of popular family sitcoms might be precisely what television needed and decided that Charles Addams New Yorker cartoon, The Addams Family, could fill this need. So for Horton’s ball, she decided to go as the yet unnamed matriarch of the Addams Family, Morticia. Maila made the costume herself and described the process in an interview with Stacey Asip-Kneitschel,

 “So, first I made the costume. I bought a piece of material for $3.67, at The Home Silk Shop, on the remnants table. I didn’t have a sewing machine, so I cut it and sewed it by hand and made my costume. I wore pale green powder, with long toenails — Made myself flat-chested … so that I was very scrawny and pale green and there I was”.  – Maila Nurmi

Charles Addams New Yorker Cartoon

Her ploy worked, and KABC-TV producer Hunt Stromberg Jr. took notice of her and spent five months after the party looking for her. While Stromberg wasn’t interested in Maila’s idea to create an Addams Family tv show because of how expensive it would be, he did want to use her and the look she’d created to host syndicated horror movies without getting the rights from Charles Addams. Maila was utterly opposed to the idea of stealing the character but didn’t want to lose her chance to be on tv and asked for a few extra days to create a new character for the network. Maila wanted to keep the vampiric nature of the Addams matriarch while also creating something new. She found the solution in the bondage and shoe fetish magazine Bizarre. She decided a combination of “sex and death” would be the perfect new direction for her new character. When creating this new character, she decided to start with the wig she’d bought for the ball and dressed she’d made but deepened the dress’s V-neckline, added a slit in the skirt. To create a more pinup look, she got a padded pushup bra and corset that cinched her waist into 17 inches. She also added fishnet stocking and stilettos, and long manicured nails. Finishing up the look with extremely glam makeup and exaggerated eyebrows giving the newly dubbed Vampira her signature look. Executes at KABC-TV loved her and green-lit The Vampira Show

Maila Nurmi as Vampira
Maila Nurmi as Vampira
Maila Nurmi as Vampira

The Vampira Show aired on April 30th, 1954, with Vampira’s horrifying opening gliding down a fog-filled hall then screaming into the camera before introducing that night’s movie with dark humor. Her ghoulish entrance and manner were exaggerated by her costume ensuring that she had the audiences attention. The show was an instant hit, with people saying they felt entranced by the program. Maila spent the next year promoting the show and making it an even bigger success. She did a spread in Life magazine and appeared on variety shows like The George Gobel Show and The Red Skelton Show with Bela Lugosi. However, the show was not destined for long term success. After just fifty episodes created over one year, The Vampira Show was canceled.

Maila Nurmi retained Vampira’s rights and appeared as her character in Ed Wood’s b-movie cult class Plan 9 From Outer Space alongside Bela Lugosi but was never able to recreate the success of the show with Vampira. One possible explanation for this is that she may have been blacklisted after refusing to sell Vampira’s rights to The Addams Family tv show producers. In the early ’80s, Maila was contacted to take part in a Vampira Show revival but parted ways with the production early on takes her rights to Vampira with her. However, the producers simply renamed it to Elvira’s Movie Macabre program, cast Cassandra Peterson as the titular host, updating Vampira’s look for the ’80s. Maila sued the production for Copy-write infringement but ultimately lost.

Vampira was cemented as a pop-culture icon when Lisa Marie portrayed her in the Tim Burton’s 1994 film Ed Wood. While contributing much to pop-culture as Vampira, it wasn’t until years after her death in 2008 that perhaps Vampira’s most significant contribution to pop-culture was substantiated. It had been rumored for decades that Disney villain Maleficent had been modeled after Vampira for their 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty. The exaggerated eyebrows and high cheekbones were dead giveaways to Vampira fans, but the production was so secret no one knew for sure. That was until her niece Sandra Niemi found entries in her aunt’s diaries that showed two separate days where Maila was scheduled to be a live-action model for Maleficent during the production. Disney confirmed this when an extensive exploration of their Sleeping Beauty archive was done ahead of the live-action remake. Maila Nurmi’s “ghoul queen” Vampira created a sexy and creepy icon that stays with us today. 

  • Maila Nurmi as Vampira in Plan 9 From Outer Space
Maila Nurmi as Vampira
Maila Nurmi as Vampira
Maila Nurmi as Vampira and Elvis Presley
Maila Nurmi as Vampira
The Vampira Show Opening and Commentary

Want to know more? Check out my sources.

  1. Greene, R. H. “The Real Maleficent: The Surprising Human Face behind the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Villain.” Salon, Salon.com, 15 Feb. 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/02/15/the_real_maleficent_the_surprising_human_face_behind_the_sleeping_beauty_villain/.
  2. Asip-Kneitschel, Stacey. “VAMPIRA ACTRESS MAILA NURMI: THE LAST INTERVIEW – PART 1.” PleaseKillMe, 15 Nov. 2019, pleasekillme.com/vampira-actress-maila-nurmi-part-1/.
  3. Asip-Kneitschel, Stacey. “VAMPIRA ACTRESS MAILA NURMI: THE LAST INTERVIEW – PART 2.” PleaseKillMe, 15 Nov. 2019, pleasekillme.com/vampira-actress-maila-nurmi-part-2/.
  4. “Maila Nurmi.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maila_Nurmi.
  5. Staff, EW. “Interview with Vampira.” EW.com, ew.com/article/1994/11/18/interview-vampira/.
  6. Baby, Burly. “Vampira – Maila Nurmi.” Burlesque Baby Magazine, 6 July 2020, http://www.burlesquebaby.net/2020/07/06/vampira-maila-nurmi/.
  7. “Horror Icon Vampira: Fabulous Photos of Maila Nurmi in the 1950s.” Horror Icon Vampira: Fabulous Photos of Maila Nurmi in the 1950s ~, 18 May 2019, http://www.vintag.es/2019/05/maila-nurmi-vampira.html.
  8. Potempa, Philip. “Vampira, Aka Actress Maila Nurmi’s Passing Rekindles Memories of Elvira Rift.” Nwitimes.com, 17 Jan. 2008, http://www.nwitimes.com/entertainment/columnists/offbeat/vampira-aka-actress-maila-nurmis-passing-rekindles-memories-of-elvira-rift/article_6fd8f956-7950-53e3-a01c-46d3a21ac1da.html.
  9. Thompson, Brett. “The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood Jr. .” The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood Jr., 1995, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdfGJOaUPlw&list=PLtwaUGW5Y0WxPU77kiRjnFXRRzazazm5P&index=17.
  10. Hudgens, John E. “American Scary – Maila Nurmi (Vampira) – Extended Interview.” YouTube, 2006, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPqIhTREzbE&list=PLtwaUGW5Y0WxPU77kiRjnFXRRzazazm5P&index=18.
  11. Holiday, Lindsay. “Morticia, Vampira & Elvira.” YouTube, 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDfaVv3kQk0&list=PLtwaUGW5Y0WxPU77kiRjnFXRRzazazm5P&index=19.

Designing Fear: Bela Lugosi’s Dracula

A man emerges from the shadows onto the balcony of some ancient forgot European castle. As walks down the grand staircase, you see his dark, slicked-back hair, an impeccably tailored tuxedo, and a medallion denoting his superior rank and a long black opera cape draped across his shoulders dragging behind him. You know instantly, this man is a vampire but not just any vampire; he’s Dracula.

This image of Dracula is one familiar to all of us, and with hundreds of mass-market costumes, it’s a Halloween go-to. The tuxedo and cape have become the hallmarks of Count Dracula’s look that has been used in countless adaptations of Bram StokersDracula. Whether its a traditional horror adaptation, comedy, or parody, you know what Dracula will probably look like. The most iconic portrayal of this look and one that cemented it in pop-culture has to be Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. 

Raymond Huntley as Count Dracula

Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Count Dracula in the 1931 classic Dracula helped launch Universal Studios as the producer of horror and monster films while also bringing Dracula’s classic look to the silver screen. While many may believe that this is the origin of Dracula’s signature costume, it first emerged on stage seven years earlier. Actor Raymond Huntly was the first to slick back his hair, dawn the cape and tuxedo for Hamilton Deane’s 1924 stage play adaptation of Dracula. While it’s rumored that Huntly created the costume himself, no one really knows who came up with the look. The costume certainly stuck when the play was brought to America, where Bela Lugosi’s first played Dracula on stage in 1927. Lugosi had great success playing the role for several years on stage however, he was not Universal’s first choice to play Dracula. He had to lobby the studio and take a significantly lower salary to be cast in the role that would make him the icon we all know today. 

Universal’s costume designers Ed Ware and Vera West, were the uncredited costume designers on Dracula. However, it’s not clear if they had any hand in creating Dracula’s costume for the film, or if Lugosi brought his costume from the stage to the film. What is clear is its effect on-screen and how that costume transformed Lugosi into one of the most iconic monsters in cinema.

From his first appearance on screen, you know precisely what Bela Lugosi’s Dracula is all about, aristocratic charm and coifed creepiness. As he descends the staircase of his castle, you feel the full effect of his performance and costume. The off-putting nature of his distant but impeccable manners towards Renfield are accentuated by the beautifully tailed tuxedo, opera cape that obscures his shape and medallion, signaling his status.

The medallion was an addition to Dracula’s look made by the film, so he appeared more aristocratic. The exact design of the medallion is unknown because the originals have been lost. It is thought that prop-makers at Universal used medals from the Ottoman Empire or the Kingdom of Afghanistan to create the one we see on screen. The starburst design is very similar to military medals from those countries. While it only appears in a few early scenes, it is now an integral part of Dracula’s look.

The second piece of his costume that adds to his aristocratic air is the tuxedo. The exquisite tuxedo is perfectly fitted to Lugosi and gives him the sophistication synonymous with Dracula. In the film, he often wears the tux by itself when interacting with the human characters because it helps him blend into everyday society.

The final and arguably most icon part of Dracula’s costume is the floor-length opera cape. Made from black wool with a taupe silk crepe lining, the cape adds mystery and otherworldliness to Lugosi’s Dracula. He wears it whenever he is pursuing while its volume and stand-up collar give him a way to hide his crimes and true nature from those around him.

After production wrapped, Bela Lugosi took the costume with him, wearing it in many of his fifteen stage performances as Dracula and his second on-screen portrayal in 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. In total, Lugosi portrayed Dracula in 17 productions. The part defined so much of Lugosi’s life and career that he would say the role ‘was a blessing and a curse.’ When he passed in 1956, Lugosi was buried in the Dracula tuxedo, and his family kept the opera cape until 2019. In 2011 the Lugosi family put the cape up for a $1.2 million at auction. After it failed to sell, the family was relieved. When talking about the auction with The Hollywood Reporter, Lynne Lugosi Sparks, Lugosi’s granddaughter, said, “The experience made us realize we didn’t want it in some collector’s closet … and we all took a sigh of relief that it was coming back to us and really made us focus in on what our mission was for the cape and for history”. As a result, in 2019, the Lugosi family donated the cape to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. It is being repaired and preserved so it can eventually be put on display. 

While today vampires have become the anti-hero heartthrobs of many movies and tv series, few have created such an iconic look. Anyone looking to be the famous characters only needs to wear a tux, cape, and medallion to pass as Dracula at a Halloween party, in a movie or on tv. However, it was Bela Lugosi’s striking and horrifying portrayal of Dracula that will forever be the face of this iconic image.


Want to know more? Check out my sources.

Stamp, Jimmy. “Why Does Dracula Wear a Tuxedo? The Origins of Bram Stoker’s Timeless Vampire.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 31 Oct. 2012, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/why-does-dracula-wear-a-tuxedo-the-origins-of-bram-stokers-timeless-vampire-101868474/.

Kilday, Gregg. “Why Bela Lugosi’s Family Donated Iconic Dracula Cape to Academy Museum.” The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Feb. 2020, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/why-bela-lugosis-family-donated-iconic-dracula-cape-academy-museum-1278618.

“The Medallion of Dracula Prop Replica by Factory Entertainment.” Sideshow Collectibles, http://www.sideshow.com/collectibles/dracula-the-medallion-of-dracula-factory-entertainment-906243.

Lugosi. “The Official Site.” Bela Lugosi, 2017, belalugosi.com/.

“Dracula.” IMDb, IMDb.com, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0021814/fullcredits.

Designing Fear: Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror

The rooms dark, your tense, hearts pounding, and you scream as a horrifying figure is revealed. These reactions of horror and fear are the goal every horror film is designed to achieve. From House of the Devil in 1896 to Jordan Peels’s Us, filmmakers have been out to terrify audiences for over a hundred years, and we love it. Over the decades, horror has changed to embrace ever-evolving technology and embody the fears of the day. However, one staple of the genera that continues to horrify and fascinate audiences are monsters. From the earliest days of silent film to 2020’s Invisible Man, movies about these terrifying creatures have never gone out of style. In no small part, the monster films’ ongoing success can be credited to the make-up artist, special effects artist, and costume designers who create the creatures that haunt our dreams. Probably the most recognizable of these monsters is the vampire. 

Nosferatu Poster by Albin Grau
Nosferatu Poster art by Albin Grau

For hundreds of years, vampire legends have terrified humanity. Causing us to create thousands of stories and scores of rituals to keep the fear of vampires at bay. So at the dawn of cinema, it was only natural that these legends would be translated to film. Over the decades, vampires have been portrayed as everything from their original form of villains monsters to heartthrobs and anti-heroes. When thinking of this rich history, one of the earliest vampire films that come to mind is 1922’s Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror

American Nosferatu advertisement

Directed by F.W. Murnau, this “retelling” of Bram Stocker’sDracula has become iconic for its main character’s terrifying design. This image of a tall, gaunt, gangly creature of the night has sunk so far into the pop-culture consciousness that even Spongbob paid tribute nosferatu in one of its earliest episodes. Unfortunately, like most film history, little information about Nosferatu’s production exists, and the film itself almost didn’t survive. 

Fledgling German production company Prana-Film wanted to adapt Dracule for the screen but couldn’t afford the rightsSo the screenwriter Henrik Galeen made numerous minor changes to the story, like renaming Count Dracula to Graf Orlok, attempting to cover up the plagiarism. As soon as it was released, Bram Stoker’s estate sued Prana-Film for copyright infringement and won. The German court ordered all copies of Nosferatu to be recalled and destroyed as part of the settlement. Thankfully a handful of copies survived, allowing the German expressionist vision of producer, art director, and costumer designer Albin Grau to survive. 

While not usually credited for the film’s iconic look Albin Grau was a driving force behind Nosferatu’s creation. As an active member of the occult, Grau co-founded Prana-Flim with Enrico Dieckmann to create films about the occult and supernatural. As the companies first project, a lot was riding on Nosferatu’s success. So, Grau threw himself into Nosferatu’s production, starting with his role as art director. 

Nosferatu concept art by Albin Grau
Nosferatu concept art by Albin Grau

The concept-art where you begin to see the dark, surrealist look of German expressionism that defines the film’s style and creates the ideal atmosphere for Grau’s vision of Graf Orlok. A dark, hulking, and lanky creature that still manages to fade into the background. In the concept-art, Orlok appears very bony and gaunt in the face while also being disproportionally large in his shoulders and chest compared to his surroundings sheathed in a bulky overcoat.

In his first of only three costume design credits, Grau knew that bring his vision of Orlok to the screen would rely heavily on the overcoats construction and the actor portraying his creature. The first step to translating this odd morose creature to the screen was casting Max Schreck as Graf Orlok. 

An imposing man himself, Schreck was the perfect fit for Grau’s vision of Orlok. With a bald cap, prosthetic ears, fingers, and false teeth, the concept art’s lanky, gaunt image of Orlok begins to form, but the hulking overcoat adds the final touch. Paired with dark trousers and a cravat, the long, dark overcoat with accentuated shoulders hide any physical feature that doesn’t add to Orlok’s unnatural appearance. Schreck brought this almost formless creature to life. Director F.W. Murnau used the wardrobe to make the iconic images of Orlok rising from his coffin, his silhouette climbing up the stairs, and creating a vampire we all still know nearly one-hundred years later. 

Max Schreck as Graf Orlok
Max Schreck as Graf Orlok
Max Schreck as Graf Orlok

Want to know more? Check out my sources.

  1. “Nosferatu.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 4 Mar. 1922, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0013442/?ref_=nm_knf_t1.
  2. Coulthart, John. “Albin Grau’s Nosferatu.” { Feuilleton }, 1 Nov. 2014, http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2014/10/28/albin-graus-nosferatu/.
  3. Markus, Sam. “The True Story behind Nosferatu.” Grunge.com, Grunge, 29 June 2020, http://www.grunge.com/221990/the-true-story-behind-nosferatu/.
  4. Crabbe, Eoghan. “The Shadow Of German Expressionism In Cinema.” Film Inquiry, 16 Oct. 2017, http://www.filminquiry.com/german-expressionism/.
  5. Mancini, Mark. “11 Nightmarish Facts About Nosferatu.” Mental Floss, 18 Aug. 2016, http://www.mentalfloss.com/article/84080/11-nightmarish-facts-about-nosferatu.
  6. Bailey, Jonathan. “Dracula vs. Nosferatu: A True Copyright Horror Story.” Plagiarism Today, 17 Oct. 2011, http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2011/10/17/dracula-vs-nosferatu-a-true-copyright-horror-story.
  7. Reid, Brent. “Nosferatu: History and Home Video Guide, Part 2.” Brenton Film, 20 Aug. 2020, http://www.brentonfilm.com/articles/nosferatu-history-and-home-video-guide-part-2.
  8. Brautigam, Rob. “The Vampire of Progatza – ROMANIA.” WWW.SHROUDEATER.COM – Vampire of Progatza, http://www.shroudeater.com/cprogatz.htm.

A Short History of Costume Design At the Emmy’s

While taking a look at the Costume Design & Supervision nominees for the Emmy Awards this year, I was stunned by how genuinely excellent costuming has been this past year. All twenty-two nominees across the four categories are incredible examples of how costume design is integral to creating the characters and worlds we love to escape into. There was nothing to not like, from the bright, bold, and energetic costumes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisal to the subdued, stark surrealism of the Handmaids Tale. This also got me thinking, who were the costume design nominees for the first Emmy’s? Where they all as excellent as this year and who won? To find the answer, I visited the Television Academy’s list of all the Emmy nominees and winners of the last 72 years, scrolled down to the first awards in 1949, and found nothing. I thought ok, television was just getting started in the forties surly by 1950 it should be a category. Again I found nothing. So I went through each year until I found the very first-year Costume Design was a category of the awards.

At the 18th Primetime Emmy awards in 1966, the first two tv shows to be recognized for their costume design were nominated under the category, ‘Individual Achievements in Art Direction and Allied Crafts – Costume Design.’ The nominees were The Hollywood Palace on ABC with costume design by Ed Smith, and Danny Thomas’ The Wonderful World of Burlesque: Second Edition on NBC with costume design by Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie. Unlike today where most nominees are from scripted dramas or comedies, both The Hollywood Palace and The Wonderful World of Burlesque were variety shows. 

The Hollywood Palace, nominated for its second season, was an hour-long program hosted by a different celebrity every week. Each week the host and other guests would perform multiple musical numbers and sketches unique to that week. Needless to say, there was a lot for Smith to keep up with. For example, in episode 20, Smith had to design two large musical numbers. The first number was for host George Burns called History of the Dance, where he sings about several decades of dance trends. Each dancer was dressed to represent a different decade of dance in the song.

George Burns and ensemble perform History of Dance.

In the second number, Connie Stevens performs, Married I can always get. She is accompanied by an ensemble of bridesmaids and groomsmen dressed and ready for a wedding. Stevens wears a beautiful tea-length dress that takes her from a wedding guest reluctant to get married herself, to become the bride of her own wedding effortlessly. Another stand out from the season was episode 19, when the Harlem Globetrotters visited to play the Palace ‘Dribblers’, a team comprised of that night’s celebrity guests. For the match, Smith designed custom basketball uniforms for the home team and a chic jumpsuit for Connie Stevens as she played referee. These are just a fraction of examples from the 35 episodes season. With such a high volume and quality being delivered weekly, it’s easy to understand why Ed Smith was honored with a nomination. 

Connie Stevens and ensemble perform, Married I can always get.

Danny Thomas’ The Wonderful World of Burlesque, nominated for its second edition, was also a verity show hosted by Danny Thomas with guest stars Jerry Lewis, Shirley Jones, and Lucille Ball. While the designs by Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie are excellent in each sketch, it is the second skit, a parody of “White Cargo,” that really stands out. In this sketch, the costumes really do their job, letting you know exactly who each character is. Lewis and Thomas look the part of quintessential 19th-century English explorers while Ball is dressed to the nines as the “temptress.”

Lucille Ball, Danny Thoman and Jerry Lewis

Bob Mackie design for Lucille Ball

However, the night’s truly unique look was a ballet costume designed by Bob Mackie for Lucille Ball’s slapstick burlesque routine. As Ball hilariously stumbles through the performance, Mackie’s beautiful butterfly inspired costume provides the perfect foil to her actions. It is also essential to the performance, with the removal of the detachable wings are a huge part of the routine. Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie character-defining costumes that genuinely add to every performance earning them the nomination

With each of these shows equally matched in 1966, the Emmy for Individual Achievements in Art Direction and Allied Crafa – Costume Design wasn’t awarded to either nominee. I couldn’t find out why there wasn’t a winner only that it wasn’t uncommon. In the early years of the awards, occasionally, categories only had nominees no winners. While my question of who the first nominees were had been answered, I still didn’t know who the first winner was. Thankfully I didn’t need to go far to find the answer. The first Emmy from costume design was awarded in 1967 to Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie for their work on the 1966 TV movie adaptation of Lewis Caroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass on NBC.

Right Ricardo Montalban as The White King & Nanette Fabray as The White Queen; Middle Judi Rolin as Alice; Left Robert Coote as The Red King & Agnes Moorehead as The Red Queen
Judi Rolin as Alice

The costumes designed by Agheyan and Mackie bring the fantastical world of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland to life, with an infusion of the mod style popular during the 60s. This mixture of current fashion was a departure from the usual Victorian-inspired designs reflective of when the books were first published. This creates a unique look for the movie and helps make distinctions between Wonderland and Alice’s world. Wonderland’s fantasy is evident in the design of red and white, kings, and queens. Their costumes are lavishly designed and over the top, bringing Wonderland’s whimsy to the screen as soon as they appear. In contrast, Alice’s simple mod-inspired look makes it apparent that she doesn’t belong in Wonderland. Since it’s never clear if Alice is dreaming, all the other characters are designed with a mix of mod and whimsical elements, creating the possibility that she imagining everything.

For the movie, the costumes were essential to telling the story and creating the world because the set design was minimal. This may be because it looks as if it was performed and shot in a theater. Aghayan and Mackie’s designs were genuinely worthy of the honor for bringing Lewis Carroll’s world alive in such a unique way. In addition to being the first winner of the costume design award, Alice Through the Looking Glass was the only program nominated for costume design in 1967.

Left Jimmy Durante as Humpty Dumpty Right Judi Rolin as Alice
Red & White Kings and Queens Court Dress
Red & White Kings and Queens Court Dress

I didn’t expect costume design to appear as a category so late in Emmy’s history; however, it’s first nominees and the winner did not disappoint. The Hollywood Palace and Danny Thomas’ The Wonderful World of Burlesque, this glitzy, celebrity-filled verity show created new unique designs every week, earning them the first nominations. To the fantastical skeptical of Alice Through the Looking Glass, that brought new life to the classic story. These designs by Ed Smith, Ray Agheyan, and Bob Mackie helped set the bar for excellence in costume design for television that every year designers surpass and set higher.