Michelle R. Cole Interview: ‘Black-ish’ costume designer
Six-time Emmy nominee Michelle R. Cole has to work fast designing the costumes for “Black-ish,” which just wrapped up its sixth season on ABC. When she gets a script for a new episode, she and her team go through it and then figure out six to eight costume changes per actor. “We start shopping before the season and we start to have a closet for them, so when the scenes come up, we go to their closet, we try to pull from there, then we go shopping,” Cole says in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby. “It’s a very fast-moving show. I’m very much into detail so it’s from head to toe, from top to bottom.” Watch the full video interview above.
Most of the time, Cole and her team start by figuring out the look for Dr. Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross). “We try to set her look first and then have everybody else go around her character,” Cole explains. “So if she’s wearing red, then we have different colors, different textures and then we also go check the sets,” and proceed to various meetings to prepare for a five-day shoot per episode. The actors themselves are an integral part of the process, especially those with a knack for fashion like Ross. “She has a lot of input and we tend to shop at very high-end clothes for hers and we have fun,” Cole states. Anthony Anderson is another cast member who loves clothes and is open to bold choices. “He steps out of the box, he likes to do it and we get to experiment with him.”
In addition to “Black-ish,” Cole works on two other Kenya Barris-created series, “Grown-ish” on Freeform and “BlackAF” on Netflix. Cole loves to work with Barris because of how involved and collaborative he is as a producer. “He allows me to participate and he trusts me,” she reveals. “He’s just super smart and he’s just talented and I believe in him.” Meanwhile, the Emmy Awards are big-time believers in Cole’s work. She was nominated four times in the early ’90s for the iconic sketch comedy series “In Living Color” and has earned two consecutive nominations for “Black-ish.” Getting recognized for her work by her peers is a different experience for Cole nowadays. “It feels a lot different now ‘cause you’ve made your mistakes,” she observes, “you’ve done the work and now you can sit down and appreciate it a little bit more.”