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Laverne Cox

An FIT Guide to Binge-Watching

On-screen and off, alums have worked on a range of addictive shows

by Jonathan Vatner

Staying indoors to protect ourselves and others from the coronavirus, we’ve found ourselves watching more TV than ever before. Turns out there’s an incredible number of shows and movies with an FIT alum making magic behind the scenes. That’s no surprise, considering the wide range of creative industries FIT specializes in.

Looking for some new (and old) recommendations? Here’s a list of streamable, bingeable TV that we love (and we’re not just saying that because of the FIT connection).

Note: Many of these are available on multiple streaming platforms; for each, we listed the most prominent one.

Cox sits in a chair behind bars, holding a magazine
Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black Season 5. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Fashion Merchandising Management alumna Laverne Cox made history when she became the first transgender person nominated for a Primetime Emmy, for her role as Sophia Burset in the pioneering Netflix prison comedy/drama Orange Is the New Black. Cox’s performance as the prison hairdresser turned darkly powerful in Season 3, when she was locked in solitary confinement indefinitely “for her protection.” Most recently, she is the executive producer for the Original Netflix Documentary Disclosure, about depictions of trans people in Hollywood over the past century. In a country where 80 percent of people do not know a trans person, these interviews with trans actors, activists, and creatives are essential viewing. [OITNB: Netflix; Disclosure: Netflix]

Disclosure: Netflix
Elisabeth Moss and Alexis Bledel in The Handmaid's Tale
Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) in Crabtree’s haunting costumes. Photo by George Kraychyk/Hulu.

The creepy lampshade bonnets and bright red cloaks worn in The Handmaid’s Tale, the Hulu series based on Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed dystopian novel, have become icons unto themselves. We have FIT alum Ane Crabtree to thank for these award-winning costumes. [Hulu]

The Amazing Race, one of the longest-running reality competitions, follows two-person teams around the world as they chase down clues and perform stunts in hopes of winning the million-dollar prize. As co-creator and executive producer, Elise Doganieri, Advertising Design ’90, has made it happen since the beginning. Tune in when the show premieres its 32nd season this spring on CBS. (The 33rd is on hold due to the pandemic.) Read our profile of Doganieri here. [Hulu]

Hosts and judges of Making It
Dayna Isom Johnson, Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, and Simon Doonan, the hosts and judges of Making It.
Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC.

Etsy trend whiz Dayna Isom Johnson ’07 serves as a judge (along with Simon Doonan) on Making It, the cheerful NBC crafting competition hosted by Parks and Recreation alums Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. Seasons 1 and 2 can be streamed now; Season 3 is in the works. Read more about Johnson here. [Hulu]

On Say Yes to the Dress, wedding gown guru and bride whisperer Randy Fenoli, Fashion Design ’93, and his crackerjack team at Kleinfeld Bridal help brides-to-be find the perfect dress—and inner peace. The TLC show ran for 15 seasons; the Fashion Design alumnus has also hosted the spinoffs Big BlissRandy Knows Best, and Randy to the RescueSay Yes to the Dress America brings together a bride from every state to get married in one big collective ceremony. [Hulu]

RuPaul in a gold dress and the judges on the main stage
The “Draglympics” episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race,
season 11. Photo courtesy of VH1.

Die-hard fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race know that FIT alumni have left an indelible mark on the reality competition. Zaldy Goco, Fashion Design ’90, has designed almost all RuPaul’s ultra-glam outfits for the show, winning three Emmys—and numerous FIT alums have competed for the RuPaul statuette, including Aquaria, who won in 2018. Read more about Zaldy here. [VH1]

Some of the most lifelike computer-generated creatures in film were created by Ben Kilgore, Computer Animation and Interactive Media ’04. At Weta Digital in New Zealand, he worked on the creatures for Dawn of the Planet of the ApesGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Rampage. Now, as a rigging supervisor at Weta Gameshop, he creates animations for mixed-reality games, cutting-edge experiences that blend the digital and physical worlds. [Various platforms]

Waitresses celebrating
McHayle, left, plays a “breastaurant” server
in Support the Girls.

If you didn’t see critically lauded 2018 indie dramedy Support the Girls, you missed the film debut of Shayna McHayle. In the film, she convincingly portrays a single mother who steps in to protect her boss, played by Regina Hall. In her other life, McHayle has proven her chops as a hip-hop recording artist who goes by the provocative name Junglepussy. [Amazon Prime Video]

What’s more bingeworthy than HBO’s classic mafia series The Sopranos? Alumna Juliet Polcsa received four Primetime Emmy nominations and five Costume Designer’s Guild Award nominations (and one win) for her costumes, which comprised everything from Carmela Soprano’s coral fingernails to Tony Soprano’s vividly patterned shirts. Polcsa had a source at a menswear store in Brooklyn who knew the world creator David Chase envisioned, and gave Polcsa feedback. After one episode he told Polcsa, “Dons don’t wear shorts.” Chase wrote the comment into a Sopranos script. [HBO]

Fashion photographer and alumnus Carter Smith has made a splash in the world of horror film, most recently in a 2019 episode of the Hulu horror anthology Into the Dark. [Hulu]

Blanca performing in red dress
Mj Rodriguez as Blanca in Season 2 of Pose.
Photo by Michael Parmelee/FX.

Fans of the hit FX series Pose, chronicling the house and ball culture of the late ’80s, should know the name Twiggy Pucci Garçon. The Fashion Merchandising Management alum consulted on everything from casting to choreography, helping to ensure accuracy and sensitivity. [Netflix]

Before the director starts shooting, teams of artists map out film sequences using computer animation (previs), storyboarding, and illustration (animatics). Computer Animation and Interactive Media grad Monty Granito ’02 has done one or all of these for over 40 feature films, including Avengers: Infinity WarCaptain America: Civil War, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. [Disney+]

Backyard Envy cast standing outside
James DeSantis, Melissa Brasier, and Garrett Magee of Backyard Envy. Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/Bravo.

For a lighthearted glimpse into residential landscape design, check out Bravo’s Backyard EnvyMelissa Brasier and James DeSantis, both Interior Design ’10, are two-thirds of the Manscapers, who create beautiful backyards on time and on budget—while having plenty of fun in the process. Read an interview with them here. Season 2 debuted August 4. [Bravo Now]

Casting is a vital yet often forgotten element of filmmaking. Mia Cusumano, Fashion Merchandising Management, has built her career on this sensitive art. Her team has cast numerous films and TV series, including Paterson and The LeftoversWe wrote about her recently here. [Paterson: Amazon Prime Video; The Leftovers: HBO]

Alum Devon Patterson has been nominated for two Emmys for her role as costume supervisor in Black-ish, the critically acclaimed ABC comedy series about an upper middle class Black family. Patterson has also supervised costumes for Insecure and The Mindy Project. [Hulu]

Jeriana San Juan, Fashion Design ’04, designed the costumes for The Get Down, the visually resplendent Baz Luhrmann series about the music scene in the South Bronx in the ’70s, and The Plot Against America, based on Philip Roth’s novel depicting a world in which notorious anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh won the presidency. She is also designing the costumes for the upcoming Halston miniseries created by Ryan Murphy. [The Get Down: Netflix; The Plot Against America: HBO]