Susan Lyall interview: ‘Being the Ricardos’ costume designer
Costume designer Susan Lyall has worked with a number of top filmmakers, including Jodie Foster, Steven Soderbergh, and Jonathan Demme, but her recent work has come in collaboration with Aaron Sorkin
“It’s very interesting to work with a director repeatedly. It definitely gets easier but it takes a few false starts,” Lyall tells Gold Derby. “He does seem to write incredibly complex costume films, although he would probably be shocked to hear that.”
Lyall and Sorkin first connected on “Molly’s Game,” Sorkin’s directorial debut which had nearly 100 costume changes for its lead character, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain). Last year, Lyall designed the memorable wardrobe for Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” including a recreation of Abbie Hoffman’s famed American flag shirt. Now, she’s back with Sorkin for another story of 20th-century legends: “Being the Ricardos,” which focuses on one tumultuous week in the life of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
“He’s much more comfortable having you move forward and bring him your thoughts and ideas and images and let him respond accordingly. It’s just a comfort level that he prefers,” she says of Sorkin. “Our working relationship has progressed according to some kind of divine plan – it was difficult initially just trying to find my footing. But he’s a very kind man.”
For the film about a troubled week of production for the classic comedy, Lyall was tasked with not just recreating some iconic “I Love Lucy” moments down to the stitching, but imagining what Ball, Arnaz, and their co-workers and collaborators looked like in their “undocumented life.”
“This to me was very interesting and really what the film intended to exam and does really well. What are they like when they’re at home or when they rehearsing,” she says. To accomplish this, Lyall did a bunch of research – including reading biographies on Ball as well as countless articles – and also took input from the cast, including stars Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, who play Ball and Arnaz.
“It’s all there and you just have to find your way,” she says of her “Ricardos” work with Sorkin. “He trusts you as a department head to come forward with the ideas, solutions, answers for anything that comes up in his script. He knows I’ll honor everything he says.”