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Television | WORKING HOLLYWOOD

Building character one tog at a time

April 16, 2006|Susan King

Eduardo Castro

Costume designer

Current assignment: The WB series "Pepper Dennis," starring Rebecca Romijn as a stylish TV journalist.

Previous credits: "Miami Vice" (the series); the HBO movie "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself," the CBS miniseries "Elvis" and such films as "Bird on a Wire" and "Bulworth."

The grand design: "The duties of a costume designer are to design the look for each character. The difference between a feature and an episodic -- like I'm doing -- is that we have to do it faster. Sometimes you have the time -- we definitely did with our lead principals -- but sometimes a guest star will come in and you have to nail what that character does and where he stands in the story and life, and his social strata."

Stock players: "Sometimes we have to go very high-end, sometimes we make things and sometimes we go into stock. Right now, I am working out of 20th Century Fox, so we have a very healthy contemporary stock. You find little gems in stock. I just found a tremendous little skirt that saved the day for Pepper Dennis herself; Rebecca usually wears up-to-the-minute, off-the-runway things. But I needed a black skirt, and I found this incredible black skirt that fit."

Create or not to create: "It depends on the timing and what's out there and what's available. The last show I did, 'Inconceivable,' we did a lot of custom designing for Angie Harmon. We wanted to do a very simple sheath look. Try and find a dress nowadays -- it's very difficult to find a dress because they are not really in fashion. Her character required more dresses.

"Pepper is a little more separates. But we are doing a dress every now and then. We have been lucky with Rebecca because she has got a model's body and sensibility. She pretty much wears clothes very well. It depends on the episodes whether we have to make something or not.

"I may have to make a pant because the pants nowadays are so low in the rise and in the waist. We're [pairing] her off with men's tailored shirts. Those look better when the waist is a little higher, so then you have to custom-make the pants."

Favorite designers: "With Rebecca, it is always great at Gucci. We mix things up from Gucci to bebe. We have used very expensive jackets, and sometimes we use a little leather jacket from bebe that will cost a fraction of what a Gucci jacket will cost.

"We will buy vintage pieces for one of the characters who is a makeup artist. She has a very funky kind of look, and in the script she is supposed to have no money. But sometimes it costs money to get that look. We are constantly going to vintage places for her and flea markets and specialty boutiques

"Part of what the producers want is for it to be a pretty show where people are hopefully looking at the clothes. It isn't that often we get to do pretty shows that are fashion-oriented. It is mostly character-driven, and we are doing very real clothes as opposed to what I am doing now."

Wardrobe changes: "The show has been written specifically within a three- to four-day time period, which limits [the amount of clothing per show]. Think of a show like 'Sex and the City' -- it's similar to that. [Each episode] took place in a couple of days. 'Pepper Dennis' is not a big show, which is nice for an episodic, so you can spend a little more time on refining the looks. I do miniseries a lot of times, and with 'Elvis,' he had 136 costumes and 60% were made for [the actor]. That was huge for the amount of time and the staff that I had -- for 'Elvis' it was a six-week prep."

Staff: "We don't have a very large staff [on 'Pepper Dennis']. The staff is about six."

Background: "I grew up here in Los Angeles and started at Los Angeles City College not knowing what I wanted to do. I found a part-time job at the Music Center and was an usher.

"Back in those days, in the '70s, there was opera, the theater companies. I decided I wanted to be part of the theater and part of the design team. I kept looking at where the designers went to school, and there was one name that kept popping up, and that was Carnegie Mellon. I went to Carnegie Mellon and got a master's degree and trained in a very old-fashioned, classical way and came back and worked at Western Costume. Once you start working there, word gets around -- 'This boy can draw, this boy can do this and that.' I think it was Theodora Van Runkle who asked me to do a movie called 'S.O.B.' -- I was her assistant."

Resides: In Pasadena

Age: 53

Union or guild: Costume Designers Guild

Problem solving: "You are always putting out fires. The other day, Rebecca was having a bad day -- first time in the whole history of the show. She said, 'I am not feeling right in this outfit.' So in five minutes we figured something out."

-- Susan King

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