In ‘Poker Face’, Natasha Lyonne Is TV’s Best-Dressed Drifter
Nobody on TV looks or sounds like Natasha Lyonne, with her raspy 1940s bartender voice, big curls and New York-quintessential sense of cool. Her presence is so pronounced that it inevitably flows into her work on screen, including her roles as Nadia Russian doll and Charlie Cale on the award-winning Peacock mystery-of-the-week series poker facewhich just aired its first season finale – and demonstrated the versatility of its sui generis style.
poker face begins with Charlie, a casino waitress who drifts through life and becomes a real drifter on the run from some very dangerous people. The show’s costume designer, Trayce Gigi Fried, explains that “we started with a different vibe” from Russian dollin which Lyonne’s character, dressed for a downtown Manhattan party being thrown in her honor, wears a chic all-black NYC uniform and a head with Orphan Annie-red curls.
Gigi Fried was very specific about how she wanted to dress poker face Actors, including guest stars. Ellen Barkin’s evil actress in episode six is always decked out in perverted purity standing all in white, while Adrien Brody’s look falls off as a seedy casino boss in the desert casino and old Vegas sleaze for inspiration. But Charlie was something of a challenge. Each episode finds her in a new place. She was already a pretty chilled person when the show started; If she’s hopping from place to place taking on low-wage jobs, she’s probably living out of a suitcase or digging into lost property.
Gigi Fried started out with a mood board that included a lot of ’70s meets western meets desert, classic rock stars, shots from the 1974 classic by Robert Altman California split, and many pieces from smaller limited edition brands, which Gigi Fried says was important to her. And while some stars might say nothing or – possibly worse – say too much about their styling, Lyonne was immediately drawn to Gigi Fried’s vision. And Lyonne pulls off the looks — which Gigi Fried says are a mix of new and vintage from brands like YSL and Banana Republic — like she’s wearing her own clothes.
“I always come from a place of wanting [looks] to be as authentic and genuine as possible,” says Gigi Fried. When the show’s creator, Rian Johnson, gave her the script and explained the character and her story, he told Gigi Fried that to begin with, Charlie would be wearing t-shirts and jackets that she threw in her 1969 Plymouth Barracuda. Gigi Fried’s task was to build the wardrobe that could evolve with the story. She says Charlie’s glasses were a starting point: the character prefers oversized aviator or Elvis goggles. “Maybe she got it at the gas station,” says Gigi Fried. The sunglasses, particularly their size, represent one of the many ways you can see Lyonne’s personal style seep into the character: they evoke the laid-back cool Gen X era of the 1990s when Lyonne was starting to make a name for himself make.
Lyonne easily inhabits the lived-in Drifter style, native to rest stops, one-horse towns, pubs, and other rugged environments she finds herself in. While the looks are very Lyonne-nostalgic and hip, but always in an unconventional, playful way – they also morph to suit the different (and distinctly American) setting of each episode.
In one episode we find Charlie working in an arcade near a race track. Their uniform is tailored to look like the shirt a mechanic on a pit crew would wear. She pairs it with black jeans, black boots and – most strikingly – a western-style black leather belt, which Waylon Jennings is seen wearing while singing a duet with Willie Nelson.
One of the most memorable friendships Charlie forms on the show is with a grey-haired special effects genius (Nick Nolte) who lives alone in the middle of the woods. Charlie’s look in the episode? A unique mix of woody hippie and movie twitter hipster: vests over t-shirts, shorts, brown boots.
And then there are the accessories she wears throughout the show, like a sun-brushed ring and gold necklaces that resemble a family heirloom. Her watch — a simple, timeless gold digital Casio — was Johnson’s suggestion, says Gigi Fried.
The Casio embodies Charlie’s look: ultra-casual, but very pretentious, and borrowed from some vague point in the past. Finally, the show itself is a throwback to rabbit ear TV classics like columbo And murder, she wrote. But Charlie wouldn’t be one of the best dressed characters on television right now if the person playing her didn’t have enough charm to make getting dressed out of your car seem effortless.