The final countdown to Iron Fist is on, with the show now less than two weeks from release. As such, more and more advertising and promotional interviews are happening to hype up the show. Given the unique challenges of translating such a colorfully designed character to the small screen, Forbes has sat down with Stephanie Maslansky, the costume designer for all of Marvel’s Netflix shows, including the upcoming The Defenders, to chat about what Danny Rand’s story will look like.
From the beginning, the Netflix shows have always used New York City as another “character” in the show. This includes the costuming, where Maslansky has created another set of costumes for all characters and extras to show off a different part of the Big Apple, including Rand.
And the neighborhoods have shifted. Like Daredevil and to a great degree in Jessica Jones, they were both defined by Hell’s Kitchen. We moved up to Harlem for Luke Cage, and for Iron Fist it was the wealthier neighborhoods; midtown, upper east side, that sort of thing. So the atmosphere was a little brighter, a little richer, not as dark and dank. We still kept it grounded in an authentic New York. But Danny Rand comes from a wealthier background, so when he lands back home in New York we needed to establish a richer, shinier atmosphere…As it happens, Danny fights wearing a lot of suits. So we had to make sure he could move as easily in a suit as he can wearing a pair of sweatpants. So there’s a lot of spandex put in those suits, so he can perform kicks and punches
This shift makes a lot of sense, given what we have heard so far. Jeph Loeb has suggested the show will be a “very hard look at the one percent.” While real-life Hell’s Kitchen is hardly as grim place as in Daredevil, the show has used “the incident” as an excuse to return the setting to the seedier feel of old Daredevil comics. Seeing the affluent side of NYC, and the attendant abuses and crimes which can occur in such affluence, will be an interesting change of pace.
One of the trickier parts of Iron Fist will be the visuals of the comics versus reality. Rand’s costume is hardly the kind of thing that you see on the street, even in a city like New York. While some of showrunner Scott Buck‘s comments have been discouraging for fans of loyalty to the source material, Maslansky seems to be on a different page.
I always go back to the original comic illustrations, the origin stories…We’re bringing these characters in an honest, authentic way from the pages of a comic book into the 21st century, and it’s very important to me that the fans appreciate and approve the work we do. These are characters that are steeped in decades of Marvel history, and we try to bring them to life in a believable way.
For a show that supposedly doesn’t have a mask or a costume, there is a lot of talk from the costume designer about working through the various options for a costume.
Although the most unusual-looking character so far, has been the Iron Fist. But there are different illustrations of the Iron Fist. There are some that look very militaristic, kind of cool and edgy. The earlier illustrations have an incredibly seventies vibe. And there’s a look when he wears cargo pants and a tight shirt, with the emblem emblazoned on the shirt. We did something like that, not with the shirt but with the tattoo on his chest. But I drew my inspiration from the classic look, mostly.
Those comic allusions are also going to be particularly heavy during the segments of the show which take viewers to K’un-Lun to see the origins of Danny as the Iron Fist.
I took that distinctive silhouette from the Shaolin warrior monk clothing, and we combined it with the traditional colors of the Iron Fist, green and gold. So that’s one homage to the comics. There are a couple of references to the origin stories. I’m not allowed to give them away but you’ll see them.
Another of the more fantastic elements of the story is apparently the character of Madame Gao. While fans have seen her several times now, she plays a larger role in this show. Her background, which is currently a total mystery, might include her living a really, really long time.
Madam Gao, who you’ve seen in the previews, is a wonderful character. Actually one of my favorites. And I love the actress who plays her. (Wai Ching Ho). Her particular look is influenced by ancient China. She has that ancient mystique about her, because nobody really knows how old she is. And when I found that out, the Terracotta Army instantly flashed into my brain. I’d visited China, saw the Terracotta Army in person and that influence, especially that silhouette, stuck throughout the design process. She’s been a real fun challenge to design for.
Aside from the cool background on the visuals, this is also a reveal of a bit of the character. Is Madam Gao possibly as old as the Terracotta Army? How? Also, does this increase the likelihood that Gao is actually the Crane Mother or some other entity from the seven Capital Cities of Heaven? Gao has been a standout in the Netflix shows and now gets a chance to really shine.
Finally, the costuming isn’t stopping with Iron Fist, as The Defenders is also right around the corner. Combining these characters into one show is an interesting challenge.
It’s been interesting, combining all these different characters and their looks together. We’ve kept them all fairly distinctive throughout each series. They each have their own look and style. They all come together for a common cause, but their worlds are very distinctive from one another. And I’m not allowed to say anything more than that. (Laughs).
This comment is actually a bit more revealing than one might think. If The Defenders is merely rehashing the costumes of the previous shows, then there wouldn’t really be anything to keep under wrap. But the high level of secrecy, Maslansky may have something up her sleeve. It has been peculiar that all of the promotional photos thus far have included Matt Murdock in his civilian clothes only. Perhaps there are some costume upgrades for both Daredevil and Iron Fist in the show? Only time will tell.
What do you think about all this costume talk? Does Danny Rand need to put on a superhero costume in Iron Fist? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Iron Fist hits Netflix on March 17th and The Defenders is coming this summer.