Johanna Argan Interview: ‘Defending Jacob’ costume designer
Costume designer Johanna Argan had the enviable task of dressing Chris Evans on his new Apple TV+ series “Defending Jacob,” in which the actor plays Andy, the father of a teenage boy accused of murdering a fellow student. The role requires the former Captain America to don a much more muted set of clothing, including navy blue suits, casual sweatshirts, gray coats. “We wanted Chris not to look like Captain America,” says Argan in an exclusive new Gold Derby interview. “We wanted him to look like an everyday professional man who has a family, so we tried really hard to make the clothes feel real and lived-in, not overtly tailored.” Watch the full video interview with Argan above.
Moving beyond Evans, who Argan calls a “designer’s dream,” it was important to the story to find the right looks for his wife, Laurie (Michelle Dockery), and son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell). To complement Dockery’s dark hair and ivory skin, Argan used “deep colors and simple silhouettes” to accentuate her best features while also reflecting a certain practicality that comes with being a mom who works with kids for a living. As the series progresses and Laurie starts to question what she thinks she knows about her son and her husband, Argan predicts that “people will subtly notice how I take the color out of Laurie’s life and she blends in.” Conversely, Jacob does not change as much, despite going through a harrowing ordeal, and as Argan notes, “We tried very hard to not show too much through his clothes; he’s the one who seems to stay the same most consistently throughout.”
It was a challenge for Argan to work within a limited color palette (cool blues and greys) while still suggesting the passage of time and the changes happening within the characters. This required “making every change, as subtle as it may be, work, so the days didn’t look confusing, the characters didn’t look repetitive.” As a contemporary costume designer, Argan values the importance of making sure her costumes reflect the time period well. “The one thing I always try to do is when I look at my work is think, ‘When I look back at this in 10, 15, 20 years, will it be dated?'” says the designer, who was nominated for an Emmy for her work on “House of Cards” in 2017. While her work might not be as immediately noticeable to viewers as those who work in period or fantasy series, she points out that “we subtly tell the story through the deconstruction of their clothes,” whether it’s Andy’s shifting from prosecutor to rogue detective, Laurie’s unraveling or Jacob’s consistency.