Interview: Reiko Schoenfeld Discusses Costume Design For Reboot

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Reiko Schoenfeld attends the red carpet premiere of Hulu's "Reboot" at Fox Studio Lot on September 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Reiko Schoenfeld attends the red carpet premiere of Hulu's "Reboot" at Fox Studio Lot on September 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images) /

So much goes into the creation of a show. Building characters is a huge process, and part of how Reboot’s characters are so distinguished and unique comes from the show’s costume designer, Reiko Schoenfeld. Also known for her work on How I Met Your Mother and Life In Pieces, Reiko Schoenfeld joined the Hulu original series, following a group of actors and writers as they work to revive the fictional series Step Right Up.

A huge part of the series relies on Reiko Schoenfeld and her team’s costume work to portray the differences in the show’s original portrayal in the early 2000s in comparison to what it would look like in 2022. Reiko Schoenfeld discusses her inspirations for the characters, how each one is distinct, and what went into crafting individual looks for each character.

Culturess: What shows did you research for the costumes for the earlier portrayal of Step Right Up?

Reiko Schoenfeld: Are you referring to when we see the early 2000s Step Right Up moments?

Culturess: Yes, exactly.

Reiko Schoenfeld: Okay, we did; my team and I googled our favorite shows from that time period, and we kind of stretched it out over a few years as well. So I was lucky enough to work on How I Met Your Mother, so we looked at a lot of different sitcoms from back in the day. We looked at some one-hour episodic shows as well, like The O.C, and really just tried to do quick pops of the specific design elements from that time; it would really stand out quickly to the audience.

Culturess: How is working on costume design for Reboot different from other projects that you have worked on?

Reiko Schoenfeld: I think what’s different about Reboot is the authenticity and the realness that Steve Levitan has brought to our scripts. I’m sure you’ve watched a couple of our first episodes, and you know he did a beautiful job in writing these scripts to really show the true nature behind the scenes of a show, and we really wanted to emulate that for him in our clothing.

We wanted to bring realness to when our characters are in bed, you don’t see bra straps, or when they’re in a fitting, they’re gonna try on a lot of different options. Even when you see when we’re shooting on the Fox lot, and you see all the background, we really dressed hundreds of background head to toe so that it looks like what you would see on the Fox lot. So I think to answer your question, the difference for Reboot is really the authenticity that it shows behind the scenes of shooting a show.

Culturess: How do you differentiate the costumes for the actors versus their fictional counterparts?

Reiko Schoenfeld: We really, for the most part, for our main cast, we’re dressing them in three different looks. We see them in their Step Right Up looks, in the 2000s, we see them in their Step Right Up look in current day Step Right Up, and then we see them in their regular outfits.

So take Brie, for example, Judy’s character, her character in the 2000s, we really, like I said earlier, wanted to showcase the low-rise jeans, the structure in the fit, the colors that we used back then. She’s a mom. She’s a young mom, and we wanted to showcase that. Then when we see her in her current Step Right Up clothing, she’s still a mom. We haven’t delved into her career yet on the show, so we wanted to keep it cozy, cute, mom-style, current day.

So we used a lot of DOEN, we use a lot of Splendid, we use a lot of Rails, shirts, plaid shirts, we use some J Crew. And then to counter that for Brie’s character in real life, she’s been this princess, and she really has a classic, chic element to her style. We wanted to mix some vintage pieces in there, designer vintage pieces. We wanted to keep her clean. We wanted to keep her in classic colors and just really showcase Judy’s great style in general.

We carried that through with our other main cast. Johnny, in his current day look, he’s kind of Johnny in real life, and we used a lot of vintage pieces. We sourced a lot of super cool vintage stores in Topanga Canyon, he wears a lot of Levis. He likes his clothes worn in and comfortable. We tried to really showcase the three different styles for each of those three characters.

Culturess: How is creating a wardrobe for the actor characters different than crafting costume design for the writers?

Reiko Schoenfeld: I’m so glad you asked that. The writers are probably my favorite aspect of Reboot. My team and I really adore our writers. We just wanted each of the writers to have a character, to really be character specific. We wanted the older generation writers to showcase older fashion. Selma, for instance, she’s quirky, she’s funny. We wanted to just showcase that in every way, shape, or form. You’ll notice that her jewelry, she has very special signature jewelry that is very writer specific.

And then, with our younger writers, we wanted to just give them each authenticity to the writer’s room. That was just important to Steve in that writers are comfortable. They’re not going to work in suits. They’re not going to work in dresses. They’re comfortable cardigan-wearing, flannel shirt, jeans kind of gang. I think we really did a great job in showcasing the individual characters in the writer’s room.

Culturess: What was the most challenging part of the costume design for this show?

Reiko Schoenfeld: That’s a tough question. I think when you’re starting a series, how I like to run my department as a whole is we’re a team. It’s a group effort, and making sure that Steve and all the producers are happy and that all of their visions are met is my main criteria; it’s my main goal as a designer.

So, I think, in the beginning, I really wanted to make sure that I understood what everybody’s visions were, including the actors, because I want them comfortable and happy as well. And I think, ultimately, for season one, we did a really good job at cultivating the realness that Steve wanted. And so, I wouldn’t call it difficult because I think as long as you’re a collaborator and as long as you’re a communicator, I think we did a great job in showcasing exactly what he wanted.

Culturess: How do you create a unique look for each character?

Reiko Schoenfeld: It’s a group effort. I like to talk to my actors. I like to get their take on their character and background on what they think their character likes and dislikes. I also like to talk to my producers and get their take, too, because understanding backstory, understanding where these characters are coming from gives me perspective in how to dress them.

Culturess: What initially made you interested in costume design?

Reiko Schoenfeld: I knew I wanted to be a costume designer since I was a little girl. I was always the one that dressed up for free dress day. I went to an all-girls private school, so I had a uniform, and when we would be lucky enough to have a free dress day, my mom would take me out, and we’d go to Nordstrum, and we’d pick out a whole new outfit, head to toe. And I just was always fascinated with putting together clothing. That’s what led me to this. I always wanted to do this.

Culturess: How did you work with the Showrunners to build the vision for what the show would look like?

Reiko Schoenfeld: When the wonderful Jeff Morton, one of our executive producers, contacted me about Reboot, the first thing we did was set up a Zoom. And Steve, Danielle, Jeff, and I all discussed really what Steve’s vision was and how he wanted to portray these characters and the authenticity of this show. It was a group effort from the beginning, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out.

Culturess: What is your favorite part about working on Reboot?

Reiko Schoenfeld: There’s so many good parts. I would have to say we laughed through the whole process. Shooting season one, watching it all come together, watching takes as we shot in Fox lot. We laughed out loud. We genuinely laughed out loud. Steve and his writers are geniuses. They came up with amazing scripts, and our actors are kind and generous and sweet and beautiful; it really is truly a wonderful team of people, and I can’t wait to do more.

Culturess: What drew you to this project?

Reiko Schoenfeld: I had the opportunity to work with our executive producer Jeff Morton before. We did a long-running series called Life In Pieces on CBS together, and I really respect loyalty. I respect loyalty in my team, and I respect loyalty working with the same people on multiple projects. So I appreciated that Jeff reached out to me to tackle Reboot, and that’s one of the main reasons why I accepted this wonderful job on Reboot because it gave me the opportunity to be creative while also being a true team player with bringing Steve’s visions to life.

Viewers can catch Reiko Schoenfeld’s costume designs on Hulu’s Reboot.

Related Story. The Handmaid's Tale: Can June And Serena Ever Escape Gilead?. light