By Lolis Eric Elie
Most of the time, costume designer Alonzo Wilson's work appears quietly on your television screen. He is one of the many professionals who make our show look natural and unpremeditated, even though there is plenty of thought and meditation that goes into the work. Don't trust my word on the subject: The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising featured his work in its Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design exhibition. Interviewing Alonzo was really an opportunity to educate myself about his craft. I hope you learn something as well.
I don't remember costume designer being one of the options offered at my high school career day. How did you get into the field?
Alonzo Wilson: In the early '80s Dino DeLaurentiis opened a film studio in my hometown of Wilmington, N.C. My older brother worked as a welder for the company. He built the sound stages and later became the studio's welder for sets and construction. He told me the PA/driver/ assistant for a designer was fired and they were looking for a replacement. I was at UNC-Wilmington at the time working summer stock theatre. I had no experience in costumes. I interviewed and got the job as the PA for a costume designer, Clifford Capone. He became my mentor and ushered me into a new career. It was a serendipitous moment. He saw something in me and started teaching me everything he knew.
Until I started working on 'Treme,' I didn't give a lot of thought to what a costume designer does. It goes far beyond merely picking clothes that match. At what point in the production cycle of a television show or feature do you become involved?