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‘DMZ’ Costume Designer Dominique Dawson On “Delving Into The Heartbeat Of New York City” For Inspiration & The Evolution Of Z’s Character – Production Value

Production Value - Dominique Dawson

While Dominique Dawson didn’t plan to be a costume designer at first, she found it allowed her to connect more with the story and characters. “I actually went to NYU for directing,” says Dawson, “and while I was directing I just became so drawn to the story that the clothing was telling.”

Based on the comics of the same name, DMZ follows Z (Rosario Dawson), an urgent care worker who travels into the DMZ, or demilitarized zone, to search for her son. Eight years ago, Z was separated from her son when she escaped Manhattan before it became a warzone. In her search, Z runs into an old friend in Wilson (Hoon Lee) and must contend with an old enemy, Parco (Benjamin Bratt), along with his muscle Skel (Freddy Miyares).

Dawson worked closely with DMZ showrunner Roberto Patino to create the style of the DMZ. Dawson says they decided the most important thing was “delving into the heartbeat of New York City. We wanted to be able to show the melting pot of all these different cultures and classes, and really keep it as raw and real as possible.”

“They all have to be so creative,” she says, “and the ingenuity that it takes to establish these iconic looks… they take it seriously because you represent your squad everywhere you go. They paint on their identity so that it’s clear, as they walk throughout the DMZ, who they belong to and who has their back.”

Another important aspect of the DMZ was a political power struggle, which led to “this new idea of what politicians look like,” between Chinatown’s Wilson and Harlem Kings’ Parco. “Everything was just really refined, Dawson says, “but I wanted it to really feel like armor in the sense that they were protecting themselves from the crazy DMZ, but they were also peacocking in a sense.”

“For Z, I really wanted to show an evolution of her character,” she says, “she starts out in all black, where she’s really trying to keep the DMZ out, she’s only going to be there for a day or two at first. Over the course of a day and a half, she realizes ‘Wow, not only is my son here, but I could really make a mark here,’ and she comes to realize what her position is going to be. That opening up, that kind of awakening, I showcased through letting the costumes transition into more earth tones and stripping away layers, and she eventually ends up in an all, head-to-toe, ivory outfit, which is when she’s really, fully come into her own and has stepped into her leader role.”

Click the video above to watch the full interview.

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