“The Garcias” on HBO Max is not a period drama, but clothing is just as important for the characters in the day-to-day shenanigans of the Garcia family who are enjoying an extended Summer vacation at their fancy beach home in Mexico.
Based on the Nickelodeon series “The Brothers Garcias,” “The Garcias” spinoff is the first English-language sitcom to have an all-Latino cast and creative team. This time around showrunner and creator Jeff Valdez flips the original script, which featured three boys and a girl, by casting three girls and a boy. The series also jumps forward 15 years and the Garcia kids, now all grown up and with children of their own, are surrounded by strong women. “I was raised with five sisters,” Valdez explains. “That was by design.”
Valdez called on costume designer Natalia Collazo to dress the extended family, and that meant creating individual styles for each of the characters – thirteen in total.
When you have thirteen characters to dress, where does that begin?
Natalia Collazo: We started with the color palette. The house pretty much gave us the color palette for everything. What you will see is that there is a harmony of colors between them, even though they have a distinct style.
Fabric was very important because it needed to be breathable. They need to still look posh because they’re high society Latinos. I remember Jeff saying, ‘It’s hot.’ I told him, ‘I’m from Puerto Rico, I know hot. It’s a different hot.’ So, we did a lot of linen and natural fabrics. Light colors saved us a lot.
Valdez: In episode five, she does such a great job. We did that take off the bad telenovela. We wanted to poke fun at it. Natalia did such a good job of the outfits. On a lot of the cheap novellas, they wouldn’t do stuff that nice, but she did the stuff beautifully.
Collazo: For that, we sourced and rented from Ciudad de Mexico and had them shipped to us. They were costumes from “Malinche” and we also created more stuff.
Ana’s [Nitzia Chama] style is elegant. Talk about her color palette and style? How did you crack who she was?
Collazo: She is a powerful woman. She is Latina. She’s very feminine and she’s always perfect. She was such fun to dress because you could put anything on her, and she is always perfect.
She is a world traveler, so if this weekend she was in Mexico, she would shop there, or if she went to Paris, she would shop there. That gave us the liberty to not always have the same style. We had the same silhouette but different versions of it.
Valdez: She doesn’t shop at Ross?
Collazo: No, not her.
How did you want to dress Yunjin played by Elsha Kim?
Collazo: Her style is flowier and she’s more relaxed and zen. She has these accessories, that look posh, but it’s mellow and toned down.
For her, I started doing prep in LA so I grabbed a few things from there for her, but I also shopped in Playa Del Carmen and Tulum for her.
Valdez: If you look at the outfits Natalia did for Ayva [Severy – Andrea Huh Garcia], it’s in the detail. She wanted to be an astronaut like her uncle, so, she has these cute astronaut earrings and this t-shirt in the scene where she shoots the rocket up. It’s very subtle.
Collazo: It’s about the little details that give the audience an insight into their personality. So, when you’re looking at the sisters, you can see that one is super creative, and the other has a more structured look.
How did you craft a look for the men?
Collazo: Jeff [Valdez] told me, Bobby [Gonzalez] who plays George showed up to the audition in a Hawaiian shirt, and said, ‘This is what you’re going to wear.’ So, we did that for the character, but this contemporary version. Jeffrey’s [Licon] character Carlos is an ex-DJ, so everything on him had a slim-fit, but preppy look. It’s hipster without really calling it hipster. He’s the kind of guy who looks in the mirror before heading out, and George just puts a shirt on and keeps going. He’s also in sandals, while Carlos does the dress-up sneaker.
‘The Garcias’ is a big step forward in representation, what does it mean to have this on TV?
Valdez: One of the most powerful stories I heard was when I screened the show for a group of USC and UCLA students a couple of weeks ago. One of the mentors came to me afterward and said, ‘I’m a finance guy at a major streamer. I realized I’d locked away the little boy that was me for all these years every time I saw somebody that looked like me, I’m more indigenous looking, and Max looks more indigenous. Every time I saw something like that he was always in distress. His mother had just been raped. His father had been killed by drugs. I locked that kid out of my life, but that was me. And then suddenly, Max shows up. I’m sitting there and watching this little boy who’s smart and funny, and well dressed, and he loves to cook. He’s got his little chef outfit. I realized how long I’d locked that kid away, and I could let him out.’
This is de-programming, it is where we start with the negative stereotypes before we can start reprogramming.
Collazo: It was wonderful. Not all Latinas dress in flowers, and this was the real thing and how we dress. This is the real thing. It was great. Jeff, I’m forever grateful.
Valdez: In episode 10, there’s a scene called Geroge’s nightmare. It’s about what would happen if Hollywood made a TV show called “The Garcias.” His father is a gardener with a leaf blower. His wife is in a maid outfit, and his mom is dressed as a drug lord.
It was our way of saying, Hollywood, this is how you perceive us. You’ve watched now 10 episodes, and we’re showing you how you perceive this, please don’t go back to this. It was the last scene of the series that we shot, it wasn’t planned that way, but it happened. The cast was crying because. They said, ‘We’re not sure we can do this, it’s too painful. We’ve had to suffer this indignity in real life, and now you’re asking us to do it on purpose.’ I said, ‘If you have to do it, because if you don’t, you’re going to have to go back to LA, and you’re going to have to do it again.’