'The Listener's' costume designer keeps the sex appeal in paramedic pants and lab coats
Sewing a pair of pants is usually a simple task for a professional costume designer, but stitching together paramedic pants for leads actors on “The Listener” was a complicated process.
“Building costumes for Toby and Oz was a bit of a feat,” says costume designer Michael Ground about the pants that have nearly five times more pattern pieces than a standard pant design.
“They need to fit in a certain way. You want the uniform look and you want it to be bang on, but you also want sex appeal.”
Ground, who has worked on “Abroad,” “Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures” and “Regenesis” says even though the characters are often in paramedic uniforms, or other medical garb, he still prioritizes style.
“It gets tricky sometimes when you’re trying to find the next level, but you’ve got Lauren (Lee Smith, who plays Sergeant Michelle McCluskey) hiking through a forest to find a perp. Forget the heels, that’s the perfect time to put her in that vintage Hermes shawl, and a good pair of jeans and boots.”
Ground says now that leading man, Craig Olejnik (who plays Toby), is working full-time with the IIB, he costumes him in good T-shirts, well-cut jeans and good trainers instead of the intricate paramedic uniforms he previously wore.
“Rainbow’s our dandy,” Ground says about Rainbow Sun Francks, who plays IIB communications expert, Dev Clark. “It’s a lot of fun playing with his wardrobe and he’s always up for it.”
Upping the style in a land of scrubs and lab coats isn’t easy, but Ground says he still wants to push the style limits for ER doctor, Dr. Olivia Fawcett, played by Mylène Dinh-Robic. “We want her to have sex appeal and always have her looking great,” Ground says, adding that he likes putting her in “simple day dresses, or great trousers and blouses with a good heel.”
And the key to keeping her look classy is Ground’s beautifully tailored lab coats.
“They’re perfect and surprisingly not made out of nice fabric,” Ground says with a laugh. “There’s been a lot of trial and error over the years, I’ve done a lot of hospital shows and I’ve done the lab coats out of really nice fabrics but they come off as coats, so I actually make them out of a 65% poly, 35% cotton blend. They fit perfectly, and they still have the same movement as if it was a real one.”
His team is constantly prepping for the next episode, though some episodes are so costume heavy, they end up prepping for weeks before the shoot starts. “The Fefe Dobson episode was crazy,” Ground says with a laugh. “There were so many costumes, and then with the dancers, there was a different set of considerations, because they really needed to be able to move without anything ripping or restricting their movement.”
For each episode, Ground first sits down with the script and maps out a basic look for the show. “Then I collaborate with the executive producer, the directors and the cast to create a cohesive look that will enhance our world as well as be functional,” Ground explains, adding that he also settles on a colour scheme to thread throughout the whole show.
“Episode 7 is all about big pharmaceutical company so it was purple and green – purple for royalty, big pharma, green for envy,” explains Ground.
“Whether or not it’s truly visible, I think it keeps the eye drawn to the show. We’re trying to create a painting with the colour palette.”
"The Listener" airs Wednesday, July 11 at 10/9C on CTV. Join members of the cast on twitter (#TheListener) as they live tweet during tonight's episode.