Heidi Higginbotham interview: ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ costume designer
Costume designer Heidi Higginbotham has her work cut out for her on “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” Not only does she have to design colorful costumes that still feel grounded in reality but they also have to be comfortable due to the number of song and dance numbers on the show. The show is already very heightened in terms of the storyline,” says Higginbotham in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “We’re talking about somebody who has special powers, so because of that, I think we get to push a little farther in brighter colors, more stylized looks for people, which is super fun costume-wise.” Watch the full interview above.
Higginbotham likens the character of Zoey (Jane Levy) to a superhero, and because most superheroes have their own signature costume, so does Zoey. “We’re able to outfit her in her signature cardigan look which becomes like a cape, so we know it’s her,” the designer explains. It is important to Higginbotham to create costumes that the actors feel good in, so she encourages collaboration, even if sometimes an actor may prefer an outfit because they like it, not because it would work for their character. “It’s a dance between what we need in terms of the script, what we need in terms of character look so that we know it’s that character and we’re not all of a sudden blending into the actor’s personal favorite looks, but also making sure that within that, all of those other parameters, the actors like what they’re wearing.”
Designing Mo’s (Alex Newell) costumes is one of the more unique collaborations, considering the character is genderfluid and presents in a variety of looks. Higginbotham often defers to Newell to dictate how he wants to represent Mo on the series through his clothing. “He and I have a great collaboration and we’ve come up with some awesome looks,” states Higginbotham. “I think that’s a big chunk of my job is being present for that part, because that’s research and he is my research.”
A major challenge for Higginbotham this season was the “Don’t Stop Me Now” performance out in the street, which features dozens and dozens of dancers and over 100 extras, all in their own unique costumes. It was a major effort by all departments but especially costumes, and with COVID restrictions being in place, she and her costumers designed all of the outfits themselves. A database was created, featuring the sizes of each dancer and extra, which costumes they were going to wear and the physical placement of every dancer. She recalls, “When we finished dressing everyone and we had about five or 10 minutes and everybody was placed, I ran up to the first AD and I was like, ‘We did it! We did it!'”