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Dressing the Part

by Lindsay MacAdam

photography by Mike Ford

It’s a sunny spring morning at Toronto’s Revival Film Studios where I’m meeting York University graduate Amanda Wood (BFA ’03) to discuss her fascinating career in costumes. Hidden among a sea of parked vehicles is her mobile office – a nondescript white transport truck containing the building blocks of “Schitt’s Creek,” CBC’s hit comedy about the once-wealthy Rose family which, after losing all its money, is forced to start over in the small town they acquired years earlier as a joke.

Wood is the costume truck supervisor on the Emmy Award–nominated series known as much for its character-defining garb as its legendary Canuck cast starring “Second City Television” alumni Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara.

I climb the truck’s ramp not expecting much but am met with the most elaborate set of walk-in closets, well-lit and filled floor to ceiling with methodically stored designer duds: Johnny’s impeccably tailored suits, Alexis’s cool-girl florals, David’s moody monochromes and Moira’s over-the-top, well, everything.

Wood greets me with a friendly smile, walkie-talkie on hip and her tiny pooch Hugo nipping at her heels. He accompanies her to work every day, she gushes.

As the quirky comedy’s self-described wardrobe librarian since season four, the 38-year-old St. Thomas, Ont., native is responsible for preparing the costumes for each day’s shoot and ensuring scene-to-scene continuity. It’s an important job.

“Wardrobe was the first in terms of me understanding the characters,” Daniel Levy, co-creator of “Schitt’s Creek” alongside his famous father, Eugene, told New York Magazine in January.

Before any of the actors step on set, Wood makes sure their attire appears exactly as costume designer Debra Hanson intended. Between shoots, she arranges alterations and laundering, polishes jewelry, and organizes shoes and undergarments. It’s painstakingly detailed work.

“I’m usually the first one in and the last to leave,” says Wood, whose typical start time is an unfathomable 4 or 5 a.m. “It’s a costume-heavy show,” she adds. “Every character is so specific.”

The 70-hour workweeks can be gruelling, but Wood loves that every day on the job is different. “People ask if I want to costume design,” she says, “but the truck is exactly where I want to be.”

This is the life Wood dreamed of as a child. A 14th birthday trip to see the Lion King musical in Toronto solidified her direction, inspiring her annual involvement in the Sears Ontario Drama Festival and her eventual major in costume design at York. There, she learned the theatre world inside out, preparing her for the inevitable obstacles of an arts career. 

“It was nice to have professors who were working in the industry,” Wood says, mentioning York theatre production Professor Teresa Przybylski in particular for having given her the confidence to pursue her passions. 

Przybylski remembers Wood’s natural talent and ability to make industry connections. “She did many projects outside of York,” Przybylski recalls. “That’s remarkable for a busy student – you have to build relationships and convince people you represent something interesting.” 

In her 17 years in the business, Wood has been everything from wardrobe assistant and makeup artist to set supervisor and costume designer, at times struggling to stay afloat. She paid her dues in small-town theatre, indie film and music videos before breaking into Canadian TV.

Wood worked on a slew of well-known drama series – “Orphan Black,” “Remedy,” “Bitten” and “Defiance,” to name a few – before scoring her dream job on “Schitt’s Creek.” It was a nerve-racking prospect initially. “Being hired on a show with such a big following and well-known cast was intimidating,” she admits, “but soon you realize they’re just normal people doing their jobs.” 

And they are people she has grown incredibly close to. 

When the show’s sixth and final season airs early next year, Wood, who ironically doesn’t own a television, will be snuggled up on her parents’ couch, a Manhattan cocktail in hand, reminiscing about her time behind the scenes of this truly groundbreaking production.

“I will definitely miss the costumes,” she says, “but I will miss the cast most.”  

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