Film and television have always had a complicated relationship with COVID-19. The pandemic briefly brought the industries to a halt, and forced productions to make massive changes once work was able to resume — but many shows opted not to center their storylines on COVID at all. That’s one of the many things that makes “P-Valley,” a show about a business that relies on physical closeness, so unique.
“P-Valley” creator Katori Hall, costume designer Tiffany Hasbourne, production designer Jeffrey Pratt Gordon, and stars Brandee Evans and Nicco Annan sat down with IndieWire’s Marcus Jones to discuss the process of bringing the pandemic to The Pynk, the Chucalissa, Mississippi strip club that’s the focal point for the series. To Hall, covering the chaos of 2020 was an opportunity to allow Black people to write history as it happened.
“I feel like Black folks are often relegated to the footnotes of history,” she said. “And we had this platform to use fiction to tell the truth of this monumental historical event. Not only just the pandemic, but also the uprisings that happened, the Black Lives Matter movement. And so I just felt like, as a Black person who has this beautiful blessing of millions of people being able to watch us and really listen to us, I felt like I had to use this as a mirror into our society and where we are as Americans.”
That mirror had to begin with the residents of Chucalissa. The show’s crafts artists took every opportunity to use design choices to illustrate characters’ pandemic-induced internal turmoil without sacrificing what made them great in the first place.
“For me it was, ‘how do I show Black excellence elevating in the height of COVID, when everyone was down?’” Hasbourne said. “So for instance, Autumn walking into a party with all of these powerful people, how does she stand there and be powerful in herself? Mercedes, now she’s not dancing, how has she been influenced? And having this relationship with Coach and this intimacy between her and another woman, how does that transmit on camera through her costumes?”
The team understood that none of their characters would use the pandemic as an excuse to curtail their glamour. If anything, the opposite was true.
“Adding the whole PPE of it all, it was like ‘how do we get these beautiful masks to match these outfits?’ Because that’s just what they do in Chucalissa,” Hasbourne said. “Everything is a moment.”
The actors had nothing but good things to say about their collaborative relationship with the show’s wardrobe department. According to Evans, even the inevitable mistakes that happened on set made the show more authentic.
“I’m surprised that wardrobe can even sit on the screen, because we wore them out,” the actress said with a laugh. “If it went too smooth, honestly, it wouldn’t have felt like Chucalissa. It wouldn’t have felt like the authenticity of what really happens in clubs and on real live performances.”
IndieWire’s Consider This Conversations bring together the cast and creative team members of television’s most prestigious shows to discuss some of the best art and craft of TV production of 2022.