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Interview: Costume Designer Kelly Kwon Discusses Bringing Broken Lizard’s ‘Quasi’ To Life

Broken Lizard‘s Quasi reimagines Victor Hugo‘s The Hunchback of Notre Dame from a timeless period piece into a modern-day Mel Brooks/Monty Python-esque satire. Hugo’s novel has been adapted countless times on screen. The Disney animated version is the most well-known one, and costume designer Kelly Kwon explains that she was “going in that similar direction” while speaking to Awards Radar on Zoom.

“The movie is also an adult comedy and a 13th-century period piece. Of course, it has a fantastical background, but you still want the film to have a sense of realism in it. That was the tricky part. I kept asking myself, “Should I overdo it so that it accentuates the characters’ looks and makes it funny? Or should I stay in one specific wheel?”

In finding the balance between the period piece and adult comedy tones, Kwon spent a lot of time researching the 13th-century looks by going to the library to “research 13th-century paintings. That was my foundation, and then I built it up. Growing up, my favorite movies used to be The Princess Bride and Braveheart, so it was always my dream to do that kind of era. I looked at a lot of paintings and a lot of books. Our director and cinematographer also gave me a lot of movies to watch. Still, the 15th and 17th centuries were more popular, and there weren’t many movies where I could reference the Renaissance period. But I saw The Man in the Iron Mask, which was my main inspiration for the torturers and the characters who lived underground. Of course, Monty Python was also a big inspiration because it goes with the story.”

That Monty Python approach fed into designing the costumes for the King (Jay Chandrasekhar) and the Pope (Paul Soter) because their costumes were more accentuated than other protagonists from the film:

“When I created the King, he was wearing a lot more jewelry, and then I added a lot more firm and then a lot more shimmery fabric than the Queen [Adrianne Palicki]. Kings’ clothes have more detail and textures. I ended up making the Queen a little bit simpler because of that reason. For the Pope, when the real Pope would travel, his clothes would be quite simple too. They would wear a simple white dress and don’t put anything decorative unless it’s a special event or something like that. I had to relearn each part of the Pope’s garments. It was a completely new language for me. It was my biggest challenge. I loved designing the Pope because his costume is quite colorful, and there are a lot of gold trims in it, and it was fun to watch him walk around the set with that costume.”

Like Monty Python, most of Quasi‘s actors play different characters. For Kwon, designing their costumes wasn’t a challenge and is instead “easier for costume designers because when one actor plays two characters, I already have the sizes written down.”

However, “the challenge was to make their characters completely different. They were completely different characters. I had to make four or five complete sets of clothing with the same piece, which was time-consuming and challenging with a small budget and limited manpower.”

Kwon was lucky to directly collaborate with director Kevin Heffernan and Broken Lizard from the project’s inception because Heffernan is his brother-in-law, and they “started working as a family. My husband knew Broken Lizard his whole life. Usually, when I get a project, I will meet with the director and go through the process of knowing that project However, for Quasi, the advantage of this was that we would always hear about it once in a while at our dinner table, but I didn’t think much of it. I always thought, “Oh, that will be fun. I’ve always wanted to do a period piece movie,” but it was unclear if we would make it. 

The project was greenlit right after while we were working on the TV show Tacoma FD. I thought that Super Troopers 3 would happen before this. Suddenly, we finished our TV show with Kevin, who tells us that we would work on Quasi next. I didn’t believe him, but two months later, it happened. I was lucky because not many people have the chance to find out about a project early enough, and directly from the creators who wrote this, and then talked about it for a while and joked around if it would actually happen. I already knew their vision and had been working with Broken Lizard on a few projects before. They trusted me and let me have my own fun. At the same time, during the fittings, if an actor didn’t like something or if they had an idea, we would always talk about it, and Kevin trusted me with everything, and I always had his approval. In a sense, I had wanted to do a project like this for a long time, and it was my dream come true.”

Quasi is now available to stream on Hulu in the United States and on Disney+ internationally.

[Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity]

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Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

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