7 Style Secrets From Tessa Thompson’s Sorry to Bother You You Probably Missed

This film's director, costumer designer and makeup artist reveal all!

By Alanah Joseph Jul 18, 2018 1:10 AMTags
ESC: Sorry to Bother YouCourtesy Sorry to Bother You

"It's like Get Out on acid."

This is how one movie goer described Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You, after struggling to find words. His neighbors looked at him and nodded, unable to add any descriptors or opinions. When the credits came down, minds were racing, faces were smiling, but the theater was quiet. "What was that?" seemed to be the expression on everyone's face.

Well, it's not quite like Jordan Peele's horror film, which is a critique on race. It's the former rapper's colorful story and critique on today's proletariat, socioeconomic mobility of African-Americans and the gentrification— which he refers to as the "cleaning"—of Oakland, California.

During a screening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Boots describes that each of the characters are a different part of him—voices that play in an artist's mind in a world that prefers a uniformed way of thinking.

Detriot, a socially conscious artist played by Tessa Thompson, is perhaps the loudest voice.

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Thus, bringing her to life required research and imagination.

"I had to read the script a few times to fully digest what I read," the film's makeup department head, Kirsten Coleman, told E! News. "From what I understood, it was a very comic book, anime-inspired film, at least in terms of how the characters were described."

Thanks to Kirsten and costume designer Deirdra Govan, the clothing and makeup in the film played a very big role in bringing Boots' story to life. Yet, while brilliant many of their well-thought out decisions were subtle and easy to miss.

Luckily, Boots, Kirsten and Deirdra shared the makeup and style tricks that made the movie so...well...trippy.

On the Making of Cassius and Detriot...

"I know that I wanted to see these characters represent Afro-futurism and Afro-punk," Deirdra shared with E! News. "I wanted to bring things that are funkadelic, but also have visible political statements."

Luckily for the costume designer and her crew, Oakland provided the design inspiration and shopping she needed. While the characters may be seen as alternative, they live in city that openly welcomes an off-the-beaten-path lifestyle.

She continued, "Everything was sourced in Oakland. Everything I found in thrift stores, local department stores or mom-and-pop shops."

"A lot of those clothes were mine," Boots added, referring to Cassius' wardrobe. "I wouldn't have put them together in that way, however."

In regards to Detriot, Tessa Thompson's character, "She uses her body as a canvas," Kirsten added. "She doesn't look at herself as a woman meant to be beautified...Tessa and I both wanted to push the boundaries of what beauty is for women, especially in film right now."

On Detriot's Statement-Making Earrings...

"They were lines in the script," Deirdra revealed when we asked where to buy her accessories, "Boots had detailed, 'Tell homeland security we're the bomb. Murder, murder,. Kill, kill.' All of these were callouts in the script. It was my job as a designer to decide how they were going to be made and what they would be made out of."

Cue Monster's Inc. Art Director and graphic artist, J. Otto Seibold, who designed the graphics of each pair of earrings. Then, the costume creator took his art to a local vendor to be 3-D printed. She designed the overall look using lightweight material, so they didn't hurt Tessa's ears.

On Cassius' Wardrobe Before and After Becoming a Power Caller...

"I felt very early that I wanted to use color as the delineation between the two worlds," Deirdra said. "The clothing he was wearing before he transitioned into a power caller, you know, the shoes may have been from his dad, the ties might be from his uncle. The sweater is something he probably had since high school. He thinks they're cool."

For Boots, the contrast between Cassius' life before and after becoming power caller is distinguished by cleanliness.

He refers to the aesthetic of the main character's success as "The aesthetic that's been pushed upon us—what's nice and what's clean."

He continued, "The cleanness, the smoothness, the lack of detail that I guess is supposed to symbolize not having problems, so I can see why all the details feel like all the things we can't handle in life."

On Using Color...

"It was all about going from muted colors—you know olive and browns, like 1970s colors—to a heightened technicolor of insanity," she continued, referring to the use of jewel tones, purples, reds, blues and golds in the power caller world. "It represented the intensity."

Or, as Boots stated, "It's a beautiful clutter."

On Detroit's Makeup Routine...

Detroit is unorthodox in her appearance, but the makeup artist hopes that her beauty will actually push viewers to expand their makeup interests. 

Her favorite look: "I think that look with the peach on the brow bone," she stated. "I think it is the most wearable, but it's still pushing the limits."

To create of all of the character's expectation-bending beauty, " A lot of the prep was going to craft stores. Buying things that you wouldn't necessarily put on your face or your body," she said. 

On Creating Mr. Blank...

Mr. Blank's finalized look, which includes a bowler hat and eye patch, was a combination of how Boots and Deirdra saw the character. Boots wanted to use a leather shop in Oakland for the patch and Deirdra pushed for the hat.

"Mr. Blank was a really interesting character, in that he has no backstory," the costume director shared. "He's just a man that appears. For me, having studying art history and understanding surrealism, the film itself is very surreal. I took that straight to the place in Renee Magritte. You have a man that has no clear name. Even though we see his face, he's still a man without an identity."

Why Steve Lift Is Creepy...

In the movie, you can tell early on that there's something off about Steve Lift, a drug-addicted CEO played by Armie Hammer. Beyond being an entitled hipster, he's not trustworthy. Kirsten revealed why—and you probably missed it.

"We put a different color contact in one of his eyes," she said. "It's a little bit of a light blue in contrast to his normal green color. It's subtle, but it's something to make you feel like there's something off about him. I thought it was appropriate since there's all of this genetic mutation stuff going on."

Sorry to Bother You is in theaters now!

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