Catherine Ashton talks costume design for The Prodigy


Catherine Ashton, costume designer for horror film The Prodigy, discusses how she helped bring the the story to life.

Film buffs looking for an interesting horror movie to keep them on their feet should consider checking out The Prodigy. Starring Taylor Schilling and Jackson Robert Scott, the movie follows a family whose young son, Miles, begins displaying brilliance early in life.

Unfortunately, Miles’ brilliance soon transforms into something more sinister. As his behavior becomes increasingly disturbing, his mother begins to wonder whether there’s something more at play—something supernatural.

According to Catherine Ashton, the film’s costume designer, The Prodigy is “about a mother who is fighting to keep her family together and her son alive.” And Ashton tried to convey that overarching theme through her costume choices, reminding viewers that beyond the jump scares and suspense, the film is primarily about a family trying to save their child.

“Keeping the costumes real to each character was important to me,” Ashton said. “My job is to breathe life into each character and to use the clothing to do that. I wanted to keep them real as possible so you can relate to this lovely little family.”

Ashton began by explaining her strategy for dressing Schilling’s Sarah, Miles’ mother in The Prodigy.

“I wanted to keep the mother very natural, very nurturing, to make it believable that she was someone who would do anything to save her child.”

As for Miles himself, Ashton wanted to portray him as “very simple and very innocent.” She added, “I was very hellbent that he could fit into sleepers—you know, with the footies. I wanted to preserve the innocence, so you don’t really expect anything.”

And when it comes to horror movies with children in them, Ashton’s correct that the suspense only increases when you never know what’s coming. But there’s also the psychological component to consider. While discussing her desire to keep Miles looking as innocent as possible, Ashton also mentioned, “When things start to happen, you question yourself.”

In this way, viewers can empathize with Miles’ parents, going along for the ride with them—not just watching as they grapple with what’s happening to their son.

“It gives you such sympathy for the mother,” Ashton added.

And of course, keeping Miles looking like an ordinary kid throughout the film also helps filmgoers empathize with him as well.

“You want to keep that innocence,” Ashton said, “to see that there’s a little boy in there, you know?”

That can certainly be difficult to remember when you’re waiting for a darker presence to emerge.

As far as her experience working on The Prodigy, Ashton said she enjoyed working with a cast and crew that were “always bringing 150%” to their roles. “It was such a beautiful family of people who wanted to do an amazing job,” she added.

In particular, Ashton cited working with the film’s director, Nicholas McCarthy, as being one of her favorite aspects of designing costumes for The Prodigy. “He was just so giving and available,” she stated. “And when you work with a director like that, you just want to keep bringing him ideas.”

Of course, as with any production, there were a few obstacles along the way.

“We were shooting this in February and March last year, and here in Toronto, after Family Day, all the winter clothing leaves the stores,” said Ashton. “We were literally chasing the trucks for those snowsuits. We were able to find things by calling and actually stopping trucks.”

Even with the minor hurdles, Ashton was pleased with the outcome—though she hadn’t seen the final product of her work at the time of the interview. “I want to see [the film] with everyone else,” she said, adding that she was excited to see how it came out.

She also mentioned a favorite costume, though she wasn’t able to go into further detail at the time: You’ll only have to watch it and you’ll know it. It’s something that reoccurs.”

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The Prodigy just hit theaters, so audiences will be able to get a good look at Ashton’s designs—including her favorite. If you’re a fan of suspenseful and dramatic horror, you’ll definitely want to check this film out.