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Dressing For The Apocalypse: Twisted Metal Costume Designer Breaks Down John Doe, Sweet Tooth & More
Liz Vastola walks us through the post-apocalyptic fashion choices for Peacock's new series.
We may not be living in a post-apocalypse, but you can still dress like the slick-talking and, more importantly, slick-driving characters of Peacock's Twisted Metal series (stream all 10 episodes right here!).
Recently hopping on a Zoom call with SYFY WIRE, the show's costume designer — Liz Vastola (a seasoned veteran of Netflix's Daredevil and Jessica Jones) — walked us through the fashions she built for each of the major characters... and a few of the minor ones, too. She gave us plenty of detail, so let's not muck up the true meat of the story with a prolonged introduction.
Let's just dive right in, shall we?
**SPOILER WARNING! The following contains major spoilers for all of Peacock's Twisted Metal!**
John Doe (Anthony Mackie)
"As a milkman, as someone who's always on the road and as someone who wasn't really a clothes horse… I mean, he definitely had a shoe fascination and, of course, he really coveted those Nikes [in Episode 1]. That was an incredible get for us because the exact Nikes that he steals from Foot Locker are a version of Air Jordans that were released in 2001. I think there were only 3000 pairs released. They were definitely covetable. So it would’ve made sense for him to risk his life to go get them.
But other than shoes, he's just a guy who had his his uniform — much in the way delivery guys have their uniform.
He was a milkman and the way we thought about that tribe of people is that they had to be very utility-focused. He had a vest, he had cargo pants, he had places where he could put what he needed to put outside of his car. He had driving gloves with his spider tattoo printed onto it from the game.
We kept his color palette very warm because we wanted it to work in tandem with his orange car, Evelyn. So that's where the yellow and the brown and the green came from, as a way to to compliment the car. I think the car design, which, of course, happened before the costume design — because it needed so much more lead time — was really important across the board for all the lead characters who had cars, especially given the subject matter of the game. There had to be that visual correlation. His look, his silhouette, definitely calls back to late’ 90s men's casual fashion with cargo pants, etc."
Quiet (Stephanie Beatriz)
"Quiet’s base layer was essentially what we would think someone like that character would want in that world. A comfortable, durable pair of jeans, she has a loose-fitting shirt. And again, really utility-focused boots that were made out of canvas, so they were breathable.
In the beginning, we see her with a hoodie and we meet her brother, Loud [Richard Cabral], in this crazy jacket. We built that jacket from scratch and it was always something that we had to contend with. Because we knew it was this important piece in the script that she takes from Loud upon his death to honor him and commemorate him and bring him with her throughout the world.
The brief on the jacket was always that it had to have a loudness to it. Literally. It had to be somewhat theatrical [with] a slight bandleader essence to it, but it also had an old-time costume feel. We wanted it to feel non-sequitur, something that was eye-catching in the world and not just [be] contempo-casual. So, you really felt his presence with her as she went on. And the bandanas they both wore, we had custom made and they have a sort of skull tattoo design on them, which we had a graphic designer do for us. We felt like [that] was a really nice touch for protection."
Sweet Tooth (Samoa Joe/Will Arnett)
"I knew from the beginning [that] the powers that be and [showrunner] Michael Jonathan [Smith] wanted him to be game-accurate. And it's funny because he was kind of our barometer. To have that character be your barometer for what you're doing and set the tone, we knew we were in a different design space than usually you would be.
Of course, Sweet Tooth has had multiple costumes and iterations throughout all the games. The one we referenced was from the Needles Kane character in Twisted Metal: Black in 2001 and then also the 2012 version of the game. But in the second episode, we had him wear his original pink suit from the game in 1995 to call back to that. His costume was not an easy engineering feat. We had to make it from scratch because how does something like that exist? We needed so many of them and every element to Sweet Tooth was hand-built — from the mask right down to his shoes.
There's a lot of questions you have to answer. ‘Is he wearing clown pants? Is he wearing painter pants? Is he wearing ice cream delivery pants? Where are these pants coming from? How is he making this harness? The mask, he must’ve stolen off of something at the casino. There’s a lot of different questions that you have to answer that will then inform how you build it. So we ultimately came to the conclusion that he put these red dots on the pants himself and the pants are white twill painter’s pants and the harness is probably made out of belts.
Once you start to answer those questions, you realize, ‘Okay, there needs to be a roughness to him.’ He's not a delicate clown and when you look at the history of clown costumes — which we did to try to help answer some of these questions — they’re very delicate. They're flimsy cottons and big, voluminous sleeves. There’s sort of like a doll quality to them and Sweet Tooth ... is not that person. So we decided to go more in the rough and tumble direction."
Agent Stone (Thomas Haden Church)
"We knew his costume was going to reference how he dressed in the past. And it was going to be something that he brought with him all these years as a younger police officer. One of the things that immediately makes you think of vintage police is that Parisian color blue that used to exist all over the place in police uniforms. I just think about the ‘70s and ‘80s in New York City and that sort of teal-y blue that just exists in that space.
So we thought about that for him and then once we realized that Thomas Haden Church wanted to do the silver flat top [haircut], that combination with the blue [uniform] and his blue sunglasses — it all came together. And then, of course, given our environment, we turned up the notch on the saturation of the blue and that's how we got to that. But we kept his costume very traditional police sheriff to really hammer home what he was about and what he was trying to represent."
Raven (Neve Campbell)
"Raven is definitely one of the more grounded characters for us. It's interesting because in the game series, she’s depicted as very hardcore goth with a black dress and her necklace and the makeup. Because of the way she needed to function narratively — in terms of how she needs to pull a fast one on John and make him think that he is going to enter into this more peaceful existence with how clean everything is and how softly she's dressed — but then turn [out to be a villain]. Because we needed that turn, we decided to go in a fashionable and powerful way of dressing. Still keeping that creepy and iconic necklace, but flipping it and putting it in silver."
Miranada Watts (Jamie Neumann) & The Convoy
"The reference for that group was part mechanic, part punk. We had Patti Smith on our reference board, we had Lady Gaga on our reference board. This sort of ‘50s Rosie the Riveter image, the way women were put to work in World War Two. We're combining a classic version of American femininity with hardcore pedal to the metal work. I feel like that kind of collection was pretty successful visually ... Essentially, they've worked on big rig trucks, so the men and the women involved in that group needed to really feel a little steampunk-y, a little car mechanic-esque, but have have some flair as well."
Preacher (Jason Mantzoukas)
"Preacher was a direct reference to his costume in the game series. Partially because of what the performance and characterization was going to be, and also as a way to just immediately delineate how he was functioning in that episode, and what exactly his men and that whole scene was all about."
Dollface (Sadiqua Bynum)
"In the video game series, that character has a couple different origin stories. But essentially, it's about how she gets that porcelain mask on her face. The way in which Michael Jonathan and I thought about her costume, in conjunction with that porcelain mask, is that she is really one of the first people in our world that really cares a lot about fashion and presenting herself in a kind of haute couture meets militaristic way. The option to do the video game- accurate costume of the pink bodysuit with the armor, we definitely wanted to reference that, but diverge a little bit. So the armor on her shoulder and her chest calls back and pays homage to her game character, but then we wanted to take it in a totally different direction."
All 10 episodes of Twisted Metal are now streaming on Peacock.