Why Wardrobe Colors Are Important For Background Actors

Background Actor holding up a blue shirt.

Color is an important part of the production design of movies and TV shows. When you're booked as a Background Actor with Central Casting, it's often your responsibility to put your clothing together for the shoot. Here's what you need to know about wardrobe colors to create your best looks for set.

Why is color important?

The use of color goes beyond what looks good on screen. Color can set the tone, influence emotion, draw focus to important details, and much more. During pre-production, the production designer, director/showrunner, and director of photography meet to discuss tone, themes, and style of the project to create the production's color palette and overall aesthetic. That color palette will then inform work done by all the different departments on the movie or TV show.

Think of two TV shows that take place during the same time and in the same location. It's likely they have a distinguishable aesthetic that sets them apart from each other. For example, S.W.A.T and The Rookie are two police procedurals that take place in modern day Los Angeles, but each has its own unique look and feel. One of the ways films and TV shows achieve this is through wardrobe.

Background Actors and wardrobe color

When it comes to wardrobe for Background Actors, costume designers put a lot of thought into how color can be used aesthetically, but also practically as well. Color options may be given so you don't match what the principal actor is wearing and for scenes that require green screen, you will be asked to avoid certain colors to not interfere with the visual effects.

Then there are common wardrobe rules for Background Actors to keep in mind, like no bright colors or loud patterns. These can pull focus, clash with the show's color palette, and do not typically show up well on camera. As always, these rules can change depending on the type of scene and what production is looking for, like if you're booked in a 1980s party scene, you may be instructed to bring clothing in bright and neon colors. Always defer to your details when putting your look together for set.

If your details leave more room for you to inject your own style, start with your role and what you know about the scene or project. You may prefer more fun vibrant colors in your personal style, but if you're booked as a New York lawyer, it's a safe bet that your role will call for a more conservative color palette. Use your best judgment in these situations, but be sure to call Central Casting if you have questions about your details so we can help you show up to set as expected.

Understanding your details and getting ready for set

When you're hired by Central Casting, your details will have all the information you need for your booking, including wardrobe, makeup, and hair notes. Some productions will have very specific looks for you to emulate, others may leave room for you to inject your own style, and some may provide wardrobe for you. Whatever the case, it's important to read your details carefully to understand your role and the look production is trying to achieve.

Keep in mind, these notes are given with the production's overall color palette in mind, which is why it's important to read your details carefully and follow the instructions given.

For example, if you're booked as a college student, each project is going to have a different idea of what that looks like based on time period, location, color palette, what principal actors are wearing, etc. So just because an outfit worked for Tell Me Lies, doesn't mean that same outfit will work for Will Trent.

Even when wardrobe is provided, there will likely be base items you need to bring, like specific color socks or undershirt, and you should always wear clean and sufficient undergarments.

When working as a Stand-In, production may have wardrobe for you or ask you to bring color cover. Color cover means clothing that is similar in color and pattern to what the principal actor is wearing. This helps the crew light the scene correctly.

You can learn more about wardrobe and getting ready for set in our guides What Does Every Dress Code Mean? and Preparing Looks For Different Time Periods.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

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