A quick note before we get started. I am the guest today, over at the lovely blog of Jessica O’Neal. Please stop by for a visit. We would love to see you there.
On September 24th, 2007 NBC brought us a clever new spy series about a guy and a girl. But it wasn’t just any guy and girl. It was a Comic-Con dream pairing! Your classic computer geek with a super-computer, known as the intersect, downloaded into his brain is paired with a total knock out spy from the CIA, while working at the local electronics store, The Buy More. Add an ex-Browncoat/NSA agent for muscle, an amazing supporting cast and what you got was Chuck. A perfect blend of geeky humor mixed with some action, all wrapped up with quirky, likable characters.
Today marks the end for this underappreciated jewel. Chuck Bartowski, Sarah Walker, John Casey and Morgan Grimes will complete their final mission, one way or another as the second part of the series finally will air in a two-hour back-to-back episode. As a special treat and tribute to the show’s farewell, I thought it would be fun to interview someone has been part of the show since the very beginning.
I am honored to introduce to you Claire Hammonds, Key Costumer at Warner Brother’s Studios. In addition to Chuck, Claire has worked on various other shows and movies to include The OC and Harry’s Law. Please welcome her to the blog.
DK: Would you please share with my readers exactly what it is a Key Costumer does and why the job is so essential?
CH: The Key Costumer job can vary per show. On “Chuck” I was many things. I assisted with the fittings and prepared the clothes. I made sure the outfit had all of its pieces, sent the outfit to the set, and was the liaison between the set people and Costume Designer. If the actors needed or want anything, they would call me as well.
DK: What was the most unusual item you had to acquire for an episode? And what was the farthest you had to drive for an item?
CH: Most unusual item – that’s tough. We often joked that if anyone looked at our internet history we could get in trouble! We would do a lot of research regarding the Middle East or assassin drug lords. Trying to get the right look etc. (Wait, that’s not really what you asked) We built a sandworm costume in season 1. That’s unusual! I often went to Orange County to pick up multiples of items. But that’s not that bad, considering where I live. Otherwise, fed ex was my friend!
DK: On a show like Chuck, there were a lot of location shoots. How much of the crew gets involved in remote shoots? Are they as fun and productive as shooting on set?
CH: Location can be fun, yet tough. Depending on the scenario. We didn’t like to do fittings on location because there never was enough space nor a tailor to assist. Sometimes we would be in bad neighborhoods or very remote places. Not always the most fun or safe! Typically, the Designer, Supervisor and myself would show up in the a.m. to check on everyone and dress the background then leave.
DK: In your position, you get to work rather closely with the actors on a daily basis. What has surprised you the most working with actors and celebrates?
CH: Nothing surprises me about actors anymore. I know I sound jaded, but after a while it all blends together and becomes the same. Most actors are nice and excited to be on the show, sometimes even a fan of the show. Actors are a different species of human! I learned that a long time ago.
DK: If you were to pick the most unusual day in your career so far, what would it be?
CH: Most unusual day of my career… Chuck had the most interesting storylines and best guest stars of any other show I’ve worked on. I did a medical show for 6 years and that had some unusual days too.
DK: Do you ever get self-conscious or embarrassed dressing the actors? (i.e. working with them down to their skivvies)
CH: I don’t get embarrassed around the naked actors. I keep myself busy while they dress so it doesn’t appear that I’m watching them undress! It never made me nervous, even when I first started.
DK: You’ve had some pretty amazing guest stars on the show. Do any of them stand out as particularly extraordinary experiences?
CH: One of my favorite guest stars to work with was Vinnie Jones, a British film actor. I can’t even write what the experience was like. I would have to act it out for you one day! But it was awesome for many different reasons. I also worked with Tony Sirocco, from The Sopranos. I have never been called doll so much in my life! That was a fun few days.
DK: In addition to TV, you have worked on movies, including working with Chuck star Zachary Levi on Chipmunks. Can you tell us the difference between working on films vs. television?
CH: Film is a slightly slower pace than TV. I enjoy both, but prefer TV. You get more time to spend on the details, etc. for a film. You often prep for a month or two. With episodic television, you have 8 days to shoot an episode. It’s like a mini movie every time.
DK: You do a lot career day promotions for your alumni, which I admire. Do you find a lot of people interested in your line of work? Do you recommend this career for others?
CH: I do find that a lot of people want to do what I do for a living. I try to keep it real, so-to-speak. Tell them exactly what I do on a daily basis. No sugar-coating. With reality shows that feature stylists (for example: Rachel Zoe), they don’t really paint an accurate picture of the amount of work involved. I really recommend it for those who seriously want to do it. But remember, it’s loooong hours and hard work. Shopping at the mall isn’t always fun!
DK: What do you suggest to those who want to get into wardrobe and costuming?
CH: It’s very hard to get into the business these days, with the economy the way it is, etc. Working at a costume house for a minimum of 30 days or working on something non-union that gets organized/goes union. Being persistent and patient is important too.
DK: What is it you love most about your job?
CH: I love a lot of aspects about my job. I love the overall experience and process of making a television show. I’m into the behind the scenes stuff. Every day is different, challenging and never boring! I also enjoy the few clothing perks, discounts and hookups I sometimes get!!!!
That was fabulous Claire. On behalf of myself and my readers, I thank you for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to answer my questions. It has been a real joy and honor to have you here today.
After the conclusion of this interview Claire surprised me and invited me to an exclusive viewing of the finale episode for the cast and crew down in Hollywood. Wow! You can bet your hot boots I was there! It’s been too long since I’ve seen her.
I left early, allowing a large time cushion, just-in-case. I’m so thankful I did. Traffic was a bear since Hollywood Blvd. was still closed off from the earlier event honoring Michael Jackson. Having missed my turn into the parking structure the first time, I was force to go down two block and all the way around. Everything inched along slower than a snail. It added another 20 minutes but I did manage to get parked and meet Claire at CPK where we enjoyed a lite meal before the big event.
At 7:15 p.m. we made our way over to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for the two-hour event. It was a casual affair so as not to draw much attention. But the place was packed full of people who had spent the past four years dedicating their days to creating art for you, the viewers. It was a bitter-sweet moment.
You’re in for a real treat should you sit down to watch the finale episode tonight (or this weekend on your DVR). I won’t give away any spoilers. The show was preceded by a fantastic blurb scripted together in the traditional Star Wars fashion. The rolling ribbon of words stated it’s feelings on the end of Chuck. Following that we got to see a very cool time elapsed video of the staff tearing down the Buy More set. It became the No More set. Like I said: bittersweet.
A fitting end to a fun and smart hour of television. You won’t want to miss it. We wish them well on all their future projects.
You can find Claire at NBC’s Harry’s Law Wednesdays at 9/8c and don’t forget to catch the very last 2 hour series end episode of Chuck: tonight – Friday, January 27th at 8/7c.
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