There are few costume designers like Colleen Atwood. She's won four of her 12 Academy Award nominations, most recently for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. She helped design Hannibal Lecter's mask in The Silence of the Lambs. She gave us high science-fiction looks in 2001's Planet of the Apes, dressed the band in That Thing You Do! and created the Oscar-winning glitz for Chicago.

She's done 13 movies with Tim Burton, including Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands. She hand-painted glitter swirls on a dress for Mars Attacks!

This year, she's nominated at the Emmys for her work on Wednesday.

She's an icon, right?

With Wednesday, she certainly created looks that sent fans scrambling last year. I know, because I was one of them, lusting over all those gorgeous black-and-white outfits and the amazing Naked Wolfe shoes Wednesday Addams lounges in. Did I buy a pair? Yes. Thanks, Colleen.

She was kind enough to share her insight from the show and her career via Zoom ahead of the Emmys. Get ready to slip into the shadows of Wednesday.

Wednesday Addams | Official Teaser |

Editor's note: This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: I would love to know generally where your process starts in costuming.

Colleen Atwood: Well, I think generally, the process starts when I get the screenplay and I read that. My next step is talking to the director after I've read it, what their vision of it is because sometimes it isn't on the page, and you kind of wonder how they perceive the characters to be. Then, if it's a fantasy historical piece, I go into the historical side of it through paintings and books and online stuff and just sort of gather images. From those images sort of do a montage thing of where I think the different areas will be going. At the same time, if I have a cast, which isn't always the case in the very beginning, I have characters. I start looking for fabrics and ideas for characters and start vaguely with a sketch artist sort of lining up concept art for the director.

Once I have the artist, sometimes that gets reinterpreted once I meet with them and show them my ideas and try a few things on them and have a play with them. It can also lead to new paths, which is always an exciting part of the process.

Camera Operator Stephan Pehrsson, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in episode 108 of 'Wednesday.''Wednesday'Credit: Vlad Cioplea/Netflix

NFS: With Wednesday specifically, these are characters that a lot of people will already know. So, how is the process, if at all, different on a show with established characters like this?

Atwood: Well, even though Wednesday Addams is an established character, she's not an established character in the world that we were exploring. So in doing that, when somebody's very familiar as an audience is with the Addams Family, you take it ... you sort of pay homage to the expected person that they're going to see. In this case, we did it with a little black dress with a pointed collar. We sort of made the collar more pointed and more goth than normal. [We] gave her the little strap-y black shoes, which are a little more edgy, and put her in an environment where that contrasted heavily with what the other people around her were wearing, which separated her from the world, which is a good tool sometimes to have if you want to do that. So we put her in ... she was in a suburban school, pushing all the pastels in those colors into that world where she was just in the graphic black and white.

The next time we see her, she's on her way to Nevermore. We added a coat over that, which was a little silk rayon blend, but also a tiny floral with the sort of round collar that's kind of retro. Once we got to Nevermore and she got her uniform, we stepped away from that and we began the new world of Wednesday. By doing that, we expanded her kind of expected wardrobe. She still is allergic to color. That's kind of a permanent Wednesday thing. So we're operating with either black or white or the Netherland in between sometimes. But it's very much a graphic kind of story.

Joy Sunday as Bianca Barclay, Johnna Dias-Watson as Divina in episode 104 of 'Wednesday.' 'Wednesday'Credit: Vlad Cioplea/Netflix

NFS: You've worked pretty extensively with Tim Burton. His worlds tend to be a little bit stuck in time, a little bit otherworldly. So, how do you take that aesthetic and still make costumes that feel grounded and timely?

Atwood: I think with a great director like Tim, who has an unusual visual sense and also very interesting camera angles, that you tend to gravitate towards things that are timeless, that you really can't pin a time period on them, which is what we did with Wednesday. I have stuff from all over the 20th century and even earlier, mixed in with contemporary clothes, which is how I like to design. I feel like when you see people on the street, some people have everything that's up to date, and some people have what looked good on them 30 years ago, and they're still rocking that style. So I like to sort of make the world up that way.

In this case, because of the consciousness of all the different groups within the school, there were textures that we could add to sort of separate people, too. We had Family Day, so we had people from their families, they're from the outside world dressed as civilians, but with a little nod to the wolves or the serpentine people that were sleeker. In the same way, if you wanted to go down the street, you could make it up with people that you pass by.

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in episode 104 of 'Wednesday.'Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in 'Wednesday'Credit: Netflix

NFS: You're known for your exceptional level of detail. Do you collaborate with a director or a cinematographer to make sure that those details read? Or is it that it's not necessarily always for the audience?

Atwood: I think that in my eye for detail and my thing of it, it's more character-driven. Some directors gravitate toward it more than others. Some just let it be and some embrace it. And I think that the fact that it's there and that I like it and the actors like it is enough for me. I don't run over to the camera and say, "Make sure you shoot that little thing over there." It's just not how movies are made.

NFS: What are the unique challenges that come with TV over film?

Atwood: It's so funny. People ask that question all the time because ... my base is in film, but I've done two streamers, this one and one called Masters of the Air that Apple's doing that's coming out.

With both Wednesday and that, I just look at them as really long, big movies. Because, to me, it has to all be a picture that works together. When I read the scripts, I read them not one at a time, I read all eight or 10 or whatever it ends up being. So I can see where the characters go with the story, what worlds they're going to be interacting in, and that. As a designer, the process is very similar. The things that are different are a lot of times, the time you have prepping is accelerated and you're prepping while you're shooting.

In both cases, but especially with a limited series like this, it's so fast and in the end, it's very accelerated. There are a lot of clothes in Addams. So when you're still shooting all these clothes, like the Poe Cup, you're still getting ready for four more things and the Blood Ball, all this stuff.

All those balls are already in the air, so you're keeping a lot going on. So being able to pace yourself, to be able to keep the momentum going with what you have going on in front of the camera, and to preempt and be prepared for what's coming ahead is a really important skill for that. Having a team, a wardrobe supervisor and assistants that can do that with you is what makes it all tick.

Emma Myers as Enid Sinclair in episode 101 of 'Wednesday.'Emma Myers as Enid Sinclair in 'Wednesday'Credit: Netflix

NFS: I would love to get into the challenges of costuming, whether that is a costume just not working for whatever reason, or the actor doesn't feel comfortable in them. How do you overcome challenges like those?

Atwood: I try to preempt a challenge, as in the wardrobe malfunction thing, by being prepared and having fittings and having the actor get used to the costume in a way and take their notes on board before I finish the costume.

By the time it's finished, they've lived in it. They know the materials, they know what it is. It does happen that you walk into a room one day with a costume that you think is going to work for that scene, and you watch a rehearsal and you're going, "It just feels like too much."

Sometimes you take off a jacket, you do things to adjust on the run, and you have to be flexible enough to know and see that, or if someone else sees it, to be able to make it work.

A lot of times for me, when I'm prepping, especially a movie that has a lot of costume changes, I always prep two change options for a scene in case something changes or the story day changes. So I have ... a really good solid backup that I'm happy with too.

Director Tim Burton in 'Wednesday.'Director Tim Burton in 'Wednesday'Credit: Tomasz Lazar/Netflix

NFS: Which character on Wednesday was the most difficult to dress?

Atwood: It was such a unit of people and they were all so different. It really wasn't, as a character thing, quite so difficult. The probably biggest difficulty is when you get into school uniforms, just trying to individualize people and make them look not all the same in their uniforms, which we did by how they fit differently.

For some guys, the jackets are bigger and baggier, and for some girls, the skirts ... Just like when you go outside a uniform-type school, the skirts can be really short on one girl and way below their knees on another.

So you have the same sort of styles that you have within a regular non-uniform situation, but they're all in the same clothes, which is a really interesting and fun challenge.

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams snapping in 'Wednesday.'Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in 'Wednesday'Credit: Netflix

NFS: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into costume design?

Atwood: It's so changing now and there are a lot of opportunities in costume design in different ways. I think that having an opportunity to work on a real project that's a film, or a video, or a commercial, all of them are good no matter what the work ...

To me, work is good. Take the work, learn the most you can from it, even if your job maybe isn't even in the costume department, just to get the lay of the land and meet people. It's a really important thing to do, be appropriate and dress appropriately and have manners and know where your boundaries are within the parameters of your job.

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in 'Wednesday.'Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in 'Wednesday' Credit: Vlad Cioplea/Netflix

NFS: Is there anything you wanted to add that I didn't bring up?

Atwood: Let's see. You kind of covered all the different typical things for learning about costuming, I think. I think it's really important for people to know, because a lot of people don't know, that within costuming and costume design, there's a lot of a support staff, which means maybe you end up being a costume supervisor, a costumer on set, which is ... You have to have the same skills. You should know how to sew, know how things are made. Being a craftsperson.

I mean, there's so many jobs within the costume world that sometimes people as students and new people in the world think as a costume designer, you have to do all those things. And I think it's good to know as much as you can about those things, but to realize that maybe one of those things is really what you're great at, and you can have a whole life and career based on dyeing, textiles, all kinds of things. Not just, "I'm a costume designer," sort of thing.