Enjoy our 2014 interview by The Time Warriors’s Owen Quinn in which we explain how we started, why we do this, and what we are all about!
Can you tell us about yourself?
Charles: I’m a proud dad of two children, a member of the 501st since 2002, formed the Connecticut Garrison in 2005 and have served as CO ever since. I work in the architectural field specializing in high-end residental and historic preservation. I like to think my eye for details comes from my background in architecture. I’ve been making costumes since high school, where I started with expressing my love for Batman and horror movie figures.
Adina: I’m a professional photographer, graphic designer and web designer as well as a stage combatant, actor and costumer for Renaissance Faires. I started sewing when I was a kid when my mother taught me how to use her sewing machine. She made me many costumes as a child (including a well-loved Wonder Woman costume based on the old-school skirted style) and loved dressing up in all of them. It was somewhat inevitable that I’d start making my own costumes and I’ve always been concerned with making them as accurate as possible, whether it was a historical piece or a recreation from the entertainment world.
Where did your love of V begin?
A: For both of us, the moment that miniseries first aired.
What was it about the show that hooked you?
C: The production design and the ships, but more than that, the characters and the story they told in the original miniseries. That story is still an important one to tell.
A: My parents always made sure that I knew that being a girl wasn’t a handicap, and watching V with all of these strong female characters on both sides (which was uncommon at the time) really got my attention. Also, Abraham and his family’s story hit close to home seeing that my father is a Holocaust survivor and both sides of my family (not all of them Jewish) have stories of survival, harrowing loss and bravery in the face of the Nazis.
What made you take the leap into costuming as V characters?
C: It was a natural extension of what we were already doing – costuming. At DragonCon 2008, I saw some screen-used uniforms being sold by Abacus – as soon as I got home I bought one. I’d always wanted to do these costumes since I saw the show. It wasn’t until I met the right group of people that everything started to fall into place. When I met Adina and found out that she loved the show, too, we realized this was something we could do together and her talent for sewing propelled us further toward making these costumes reality.
A: Exactly – I’d been aware of the convention costuming world, but had never attended one and mostly stuck to historical costumes or “ren faire” costumes. But my favorite thing about that genre was trying to make my costumes as historically correct as possible, if only to the naked eye. When Charles suggested that we try to recreate these characters that we loved so much as kids, I was intrigued by the idea. The challenge of making these costumes as close to the originals as possible, down to the fabrics and methods used by those Warner Brothers costume designers was another puzzle I wanted to solve. Especially since no one else had solved that puzzle to our liking so far. And it was a way to celebrate my love of the show at the same time.
What was your first one and why did you choose that ?
A: It had to be Diana. I loved all the female characters, but Diana was my favorite.
C: Mine was a shocktrooper – they just looked cool with those helmets and rifles. And they actually HIT things unlike most bad guys in sci-fi, like stormtroopers and Cylons! And of course, the character Charles was a natural second (and Adina insisted!). Plus, it seemed only natural that we should actually have Charles and Diana leading the group.
The Visitor costumes are very distinct. Was yours hand made or do you buy them complete?
C: Originally I bought two from a popular maker, and while the quality was good, once compared to my first screen-used uniform they turned out to be slightly off and certainly the wrong color. We knew then we needed to make our uniforms in the rust somehow. However, to get started, we went along with the use of the red coveralls and only made shocktrooper overlays so that we could reuse the overlays once we figured out how to go rust. Some former members thought that the red was good enough – but it wasn’t good enough for me, Adina or the rest of us. We did a lot of dye tests, collected a lot of swatches and Adina studied the screen-used uniforms we had started to collect – all to make these the most screen-accurate V uniforms available in the world, right down to the lining. Because *no one* else was doing that. And once you know what the correct color is…red just doesn’t cut it, lol.
A: As you know, I make all the overlays and gauntlets, so all of our currently used uniforms were made by me. All of the patterns I use are taken directly from screen-used uniforms and we’re lucky enough to have several sizes and variations to allow me to make them fit people as best as possible. I also hand-dye the fabrics to get the proper rust color for both the overlays and the coveralls. While all of them don’t come out exactly the same, that also matches the variations we’ve found in the over a dozen screen-used uniforms we own, as rarely are two the same shade of rust. I also made my entire Diana costume except the bodysuit (which did require some additional alterations and trims to make it right). That includes the belt and the buckle, the latter of which took an endless number of screenshots to try and decipher the shape and materials of. I still don’t know exactly what it was made of, but mine at least *looks* like the real deal! I still want to find a more accurate fabric for the black overlay someday. Our patches are custom-made for us and took a lot of precise measuring against the screen-used patches to get them to be as close to the originals as possible and the proper proportion for their individual uses. We did idealize the glyph on them a little to make them all symmetrical and uniform, but only because the originals were all over the place and our needed to look good for people right in front of us.
How did the CT:V Connecticut Mothership come about?
C: After I got my first screen-used uniform, I shared pictures with my friends on the CTG boards and it turned out others that also loved the show and wanted to pursue making V costumes and props as well. And then once I met Adina and found out she loved the show, wanted to do Diana and had the talent to make the costumes happen – that was the last piece of the puzzle. We had visited one or two cons as smaller groups, but the big debut was at SuperMegaFest in 2011. No one outside of our group knew there was going to be 12 fully uniformed Visitors marching down the hall of the Sheraton, in props and costumes we put together. We were met with cheers and gasps and the response there and afterwards was so overwhelming that we decided, for fun, to make it an official group. We came up with the name, Adina designed the logo and we started a Facebook page.
Where you surprized to find so many like-minded fans?
A: I certainly was! I had no idea that this community existed since the original miniseries, including the fan club. And to find that these fans still remain and new ones are still being made? Pretty amazing. And it wasn’t until we started the Facebook page that we saw how many fans were still out there and wanted to share the love of the show with us.
C: It’s not as mainstream as Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica, but the V fans have always been extremely passionate. And what’s always impressed me is that there has always been a tremendous amount of female fans, moreso than what was typical for sci-fi at the time. We’re constantly flattered and pleased to come across people who joyfully recognize the uniforms and are excited to see us. What I found the most surprising was how many people come up to us saying how refreshing it is to see Visitors and “not another Stormtrooper”. Part of the draw for costuming V is that it hasn’t been done to death and were able to travel the path less traveled, which I love to do.
You guys also build props. How do you get accessories like the weapons, for example, so screen accurate?
A: That’s Charles’ department!
C: First off, I am fortunate that since the beginning of the CT:V, I’ve collected many V props and made many friends that allow me access to their collections. All have given us the ability to study these props extensively and to document every detail. From that, we’ve been able to reproduce pistols, rifles, holsters and helmets for ourselves with some success. We’re not professional propmakers – just ham-and-eggers with a passion to make stuff that nobody else has made, for ourselves and to be self-sufficient. And most of the props we make are not made by a single person – they’re made by many. I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many talented people who are willing to contribute their time and skills for the betterment of the group. It’s true group costuming, and I love it. We had no idea how much it would take off since then! We’re not a store and don’t want to be, but we don’t want to say to no to people who are just like us, so we’re doing what we can between work, family and life in general.
Are the sunglasses a particular design created specifically for the show. If so, where do you get them?
C: The original sunglasses were an Italian brand that the production company repurposed – they were totally off-the-shelf. But being expensive, there are some slightly different background versions that were made for crowd scenes.
A: You can currently get them from an eBay seller who had a huge run of reproductions made and sells them for less than $20, which is fantastic! They are currently the ONLY repros available as the originals are long gone. They may not be the real thing, but they’re the next best thing. It’s one of the few off-the-shelf items that we actually buy.
Do you guys troop for charity? What has the public reaction been like?
C: We don’t troop for charity. There are plenty of other groups that troop for charity, one of which I am a member of, and like to crow about it every day. And they’re much more mainstream and popular, allowing them to do such a thing. V is more underground and nichey – we are not going to reach the kind of people that mainstream charity costumers reach, and that’s okay with us. We decided at the outset that we were costuming for ourselves and to be the best V costumers we could be. That being said, we believe that charity begins at home and should be done for its own sake. We’ve met some incredibly kind and generous people around the world as the CT:V has grown and I’m happy that we already treat each other with that kindness and generosity instinctually without needing to broadcast it.
What defines V for you?
C: As far as the original, it’s about the human struggle and the fight against oppression. It’s about the different levels of humanity you encounter in different kinds of situations. These characters felt like real people – I could identify with aspects of each of the characters in the show. As many times as I watch it, I still feel that way and it’s why I still love it.
A: It’s ultimately about the spirit of mankind – what would you do in such a situation? Would you stick to what you know is right or be tempted by power? Would you hide to keep yourself safe or fight for the greater good? It’s a timeless story of how humans – and Visitors – made their choices in difficult times.
You’re a convention regular. What celebrities have you met from the show?
C: So far, we’ve had the pleasure to meet Duncan Regher (Charles) and Sarah Douglas (Pamela). We’ve also been in contact online with Peter Ebling, Richard Epcar, Jane Badler and Frank Ashmore. We’ve also met Leon, one of the stuntmen from the show, who we met randomly in a hotel bar at one of the cons when he recognized our uniforms.
A: Duncan was so surprised and touched by our love for the show and we had a great time talking with him – HE insisted on taking a picture with us before we had a chance to and was lovely to chat with! Sarah was also incredibly gracious with her time, not only speaking with us at her table, but coming to visit us twice – heck, most of what we talked about with her didn’t even have to do with V. I’m grateful to have met these two lovely people and to have had them spend even that little bit of personal time with them. Both Duncan and Sarah were gifted with CT:V logo mugs with their name in Visitorese on the opposite side.
I recently interviewed Sarah Douglas for the Time Warriors site. She is very passionate about the show. Is that a mark of the quality of the show for you when the stars rave about it?
A: To me it is – when an actor is enjoying their role and the writing in a show, I think they are freer to express their art. It makes everything come together when the actors enjoy what they’re creating.
C: Well said, Adina – what upsets me is when actors try to distance themselves from these roles or who turn back to them only when money is to be made. Luckily, we’ve not found a single V actor to be like that. All have been generous with their time – whether in person or online – and seem to genuinely appreciate what they were a part of and the impact it had on their audience.
The show went to a weekly series. Do you think the formula of V wasn’t meant for a long running series or was it just down to budget?
C: I think it was down to budget. There were so many hints of greatness, but it was expensive and there were weaknesses in the writing at times. The series’ formula had great potential to become long-running, but as the network meddled more and more, the show suffered. And having said that, as cheesy as the episodes got toward the end – I still enjoyed all the characters. So, again, thank the actors for that!
What did you think of the reboot series that was cancelled after two seasons?
A: I enjoyed it and I thought it had potential, but I think it waited too long to develop the characters enough to care about any of them. Toward the end it was getting there, but the network gave up on it before it could. I wish I could have seen what the addition of Marc Singer to the cast would have brought.
C: I felt like it started too fast, then slowed to a crawl and when Jane showed up, it brought it to a whole other level. But, they messed too much with the Visitor physiology, used too much green screen and had some dopey plot points that didn’t help. As Adina said, it didn’t have the character development and while it started to pick up as they killed off Tyler and Marc Singer showed up…but then it was cancelled. It didn’t have the ensemble feel to it like the original, but I did like how it was retooled to the present day and thought there was potential, but it quickly petered out.
UPDATE: Since this interview, we’ve not only met Richard Herd, but also Greta Blackburn, Marc Singer, and Frank Ashmore as seen here at ComiCONN 2017, as well as Jane Badler, Sybil Danning, stuntman Leon Delaney, and many others!We recently had Richard Herd here in Ireland at a convention and he too is very passionate about the show. He was particularly complimentary about the work you guys do. How did you guys get noticed when starting out?
A: I can’t even believe Richard Herd knew about us! I was speechless when I found out.
C: When you told us about Richard, we were just stunned and humbled by his compliments. We don’t know how he knows, but we hope to run into him at a convention some day (hint-hint, Richard!). Not to mention how much we loved him on Seinfeld as well! As for us getting noticed, we show up at cons to make friends and promote ourselves through our Facebook page. We don’t think of ourselves as “celebrity cosplayers” – that’s a term I despise. We are just passionate fans like the other fans we meet and we’re out there to promote V, not ourselves.
We’ve recently had our very own Mothership begin here. How many countries have a Mothership club?
C: Well, there’s the United States (which includes Connecticut, California, Wisconsin, Texas, and Florida), Canada (Alberta and Quebec), New Zealand, Australia, UK/Ireland, Mexico and the Nordic Mothership (which includes Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland). We never envisioned it getting this big, to be honest! People liked what we were doing and wanted to be a part of it so we found a way through the various Motherships.
A: And the logo I made was easily adaptable to represent other Motherships while keeping a sense of branding across the board (my graphic design background showing through). Eventually we had so many Motherships that we decided to found the Visitor Fleet and I designed a version logo to represent them all as one while still keeping to that “brand”.
You guys are renowned for your great costumes and props. What can we expect from the future from you?
C: We have one or two surprises up our gauntlets…something big that is coming this year…
A: You’ll have to wait and see! But we’re also working on other non-V costuming projects, which are possibly more obscure, so we’ll see where that goes!
C: But we’re always going to be out there spreading the V love!
What advice would you give to any budding prop builder thinking of starting out?
C: My advice would be to find a group of people, even just one or two, and do it all together. It’s more fun to share ideas and the work than to work in a vacuum, at least for me. I find the group dynamic to be more rewarding.
Where can people find out about the club and your fantastic work?
C: And thank you, Owen, for all of your support through the years and for asking us to be a part of the Time Warriors site! Pretenama!