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Hiatus Helper: Sleepy Hollow’s Kristin Burke Talks Costume Design [Exclusive Interview] 

Photo Credit: James Dimmock/FOX
Photo Credit: James Dimmock/FOX

The season 2 premiere of Sleepy Hollow is only one month away. If you’ve been suffering through this hiatus like we have, we’ve got a little something that might help tide you over. TV Goodness had a chance to speak to Kristin Burke last month at Comic-Con. She was there this year for a panel about what it takes to become a costume designer, put on by the Costume Designer’s Guild. I talked to her about how she broke into the business, what made her want to work in TV and what she’s done so far for season 2.


TV GOODNESS: When did you know you wanted to be a costume designer and how did you break into the business?

Kristin Burke: “Well, it’s kind of a strange story. Since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to do something with sewing, I think probably since I was about 5 years old. How did I get into this business? It’s a pretty convoluted story and I tell it in the book Costuming for Film. Basically, I hustled and talked my way into the job. It was just a comedy of errors. People thought I was hired but I kind of wasn’t and I just took the job.”

TV GOODNESS: Nice. Good for you. I was looking at your credits and you’ve mostly done films. What was it about Sleepy Hollow that made you want to work in TV?

Kristin: “Well, the thing is, my friend Sonia Hayes, who designed the pilot, called me and told me that this was a special project and I told her that I didn’t do TV. She said, ‘I think this is a little different. I think you need to look at it.’ I saw the trailer and I was like, ‘Oh. Ok, I see what you’re saying.’ From a design standpoint, it is a very interesting show. We get to do a lot of things that definitely you don’t get to do in TV and often, that you don’t get to do in film. It was the design challenge that drew me to the show.”

TV GOODNESS: Take us through your process. Once you read the script, is that the first step? Then from there you get the idea? What happens next?

Kristin: “I read the script and we have a concept meeting. I ask all the questions that are pertinent to costume from what we read in the script. We go through it and figure it out. This show shoots very quickly. We are on an 8-day schedule, so while one episode is shooting we are prepping the other episode. However, the reality is that we’re shooting 2 episodes at once and I’m prepping a third.”

TV GOODNESS: Wow. Very busy.

Kristin: “Yeah. It’s a lot. So, I’m managing stuff that’s happening on set and I’m trying to head things off at the pass and prep for other episodes, so it’s not just that I’m prepping one episode at a time. We get scripts in advance so that I can prep them as early as I need or as early as I can. So I may be prepping something that’s 3 episodes down the road just because it takes longer to get done. So there are a lot of spinning plates. A lot. Like, it’s crazy.”

TV GOODNESS: Tell me about who’s the most fun to dress on the show and why.

Kristin: “I really enjoy dressing everyone and I would be giving away some spoilers, I think, if I indicated who was the most fun to dress but I’ll say this: It is always fun to do the bad guys. The monsters and the creatures and the supernatural elements and the period stuff, all of that is just awesome. So when they give me a script that has five hundred background and the town scene, hanging and all that stuff I’m very excited.”

TV GOODNESS: Speaking of that, it seems like working on a genre show must present its own set of unique challenges. What’s been your biggest challenge on the show so far?

Kristin: “I really haven’t done much TV, so I have nothing to compare it with. But I am told that our show is exceptionally, let’s say difficult, in as much as we have oftentimes two units going at once and prepping 3 and we are in the middle of nowhere. So we don’t have resources. We don’t have anything but a JoAnn’s fabric store here. We don’t have a Nordstrom. We don’t have an American Apparel. We don’t have the basics. So that is the single most challenging aspect of the show. If we shot the show in New York or Los Angeles, it would be a lot different.”

Photo Credit:  David Johnson/FOX
Photo Credit: David Johnson/FOX

TV GOODNESS: I’m wondering how much research you do for the costumes of characters like Ichabod and Katrina and even the creatures. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Kristin: “I have a whole bookshelf full of books. The reality is that we do a lot of research and sometimes people who are in creative positions decide that they want to twist it. Like the show twists history a little bit, oftentimes we find that there is a desire to twist costume history as well on many levels. So we get into stuff that is slightly anachronistic but works for the show.”

TV GOODNESS: Other than the story concerns, do you have to keep anything else in mind when you’re designing or coming up with a concept for a costume?

Kristin: “Yeah, we always have to keep the actors in mind because they wear it and they have to move in it and they have to live in it in 95 degree weather with 85% humidity, so this is something I’m constantly thinking about, especially this time of year. And then when it gets cold here too. A costume is a kinetic sculpture that has meaning. So we’re trying to tell the story with the costume and yet we have to take in all these other factors, the narrative element and then the person wearing it and how they’re going to be able to move through the world in that costume. So it’s a big concern for me for sure.”

TV GOODNESS: I don’t know if you can answer this, but I’m gonna ask anyway. Can you tell me anything about the costumes you’re working on for season 2?

Kristin: “I can tell you that they’re awesome. We have done a lot of building so far this season. We have made a lot of garments. I think that fans of the show are gonna go nuts.”

TV GOODNESS: Can you tell me anything about Benjamin Franklin or is that off-limits?

Kristin: “I don’t really know. [Laughs.] I don’t what of Benjamin Franklin we’re gonna be seeing, actually. We’re still working it out. I don’t think you can expect to see anything outside of what we would imagine for [him.] He doesn’t go to Mars or anything. He’s not wearing a disco jumpsuit, so that’s good.” [Laughs.]

TV GOODNESS: Where do you find your inspiration? What makes you excited to go to work every day and do this?

Kristin: “The food. Just kidding. You know what really brings us the feeling of tremendous satisfaction in this job particularly, is the response from our Twitter followers and from fans of the show. That is the single most important thing to us as far as morale is concerned at this point. We love hearing the feedback from the people who love the show. It’s just a very powerful thing for us because I’ve done a lot of movies and we never get feedback like that from movies. But there’s something about television that encourages people to talk about it as it’s happening, watercooler sort of stuff. The response is immediate and consistent and so lovely. We really have such a loyal group of people who are so kind and make us feel really good about what we’re doing.”

TV GOODNESS: Good. It seems like the fan base is very active and very passionate, which is great.

Kristin: “Yes. Yes, they are. [Laughs.] There’s a lot of questions about, ‘When will be see Crane in this?’ and, ‘When will be see Crane in that?’ and it’s great. It’s great to have people who are as invested in the show as we are.”

TV GOODNESS: My final question is if you could pick any fictional character to dress or design a costume for who would it be and why?

Kristin: “That is a really, really tough. I mean, I love history so if I was gonna do a historical thing, for example, I would love to do Josephine Baker. But fictional…”

TV GOODNESS: Or you could talk about Josephine Baker. I love that choice.

Kristin: “I just think that whole era in the style and her story is amazing, but my real dream is to make a movie about- well, I have several dreams, but one of them is to do a musical that’s a western. A big ole’ Ziegfeld follies style musical western. Annie Oakley’s not exactly a fictional character, but there would be something about that. I don’t know. It’s tough because I think with a fictional character people come in with expectations of what that person should look like and it gets very tricky. I mean, Ichabod Crane is a fictional character as far as we know. I’m sure he was based on somebody in Washington Irving’s real life, but there have been several incarnations of Ichabod Crane and I don’t think that anybody’s complaining about this one. [Laughs.] But, I don’t know. I think tackling fiction, quite honestly, is pretty hard because of the expectations that are built into that.”

Photo Credit:  David Johnson/FOX
Photo Credit: David Johnson/FOX

Edited for space and content.

Season 2 of Sleepy Hollow premieres Monday, September 22nd and 9/8c on Fox.

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1 Comment

  1. Donna

    Fans of Sleepy Hollow appreciate how interactive Kristin is with fans, too. She’s the best!

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