Costumes tell stories: Happy Death Day 2U’s Whitney Anne Adams

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Happy Death Day 2U-Whitney Anne Adams-Courtesy of Universal Pictures

From Mary Poppins to Happy Death Day 2U, costume designer Whitney Anne Adams loves to bring characters to life with directors and actors.

Whitney Anne Adams designed costumes for three movies coming out this Spring, including the highly anticipated Happy Death Day 2U. Her bio is jaw dropping. Let’s get into it!

The Interview

1428 Elm: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us at 1428 Elm!

Whitney Anne Adams: Sure. No problem!

1428 Elm: You’ve said that Mary Poppins got you interested in movies. But was a lot of that about the costumes?

WAA: I think that was definitely a big part of it. When I was two my mom cobbled together a Mary Poppins Halloween costume. It didn’t look anything like the movie version, but I was so enthralled with Mary Poppins. And who this character was. And all the beautiful colors, fabrics, and textures that really drew me. Even from two years old. And, so, from the get go that was just something that sparked my interest in it and really pushed me down this film loving path. My whole family were film buffs. I actually got to work with the original designer who designed for the Mary Poppins movie. And I got to see all of his sketches and all of these behind the scenes stories. Tony Walton. He’s an epic, epic designer.

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1428 Elm: Do you ever watch the same movie over and over? I do and I start to obsess over the details.

WAA: Completely. The other movie that did that for me was Moulin Rouge. I was really sick in high school and I would watch that movie over and over again when I was in and out of the hospital. And it kept me from being really depressed about being so sick. At the same time I fell in love with the visuals. I fell in love with the story. I fell in love with how the stories could completely distract me from the horrors that were going on in my own life. That ability to transport people away from their life for two or two and a half hours is the most special part of the thing  we do.

1428 Elm: In addition to designing for Beyonce’s tour and Liza Minelli, you’ve also worked with Baz Lurhman. Was there a lot of pressure?

WAA: I feel very lucky. I’ve worked very hard to get there, but I feel very lucky. I felt, especially during Gatsby, that I put myself under a huge amount of pressure. I was working for Catherine Martin, who made me want to be a costume designer. And I really wanted to prove myself and show that I could do everything that they asked. So it was a stressful time. But, it was also the best time of my life. I’ve been working on and off for Baz and [Catherine Martin] for the last nine years. They’re like family to me now. I felt that I was getting paid to have a master class.

Happy Death Day 2U-Whitney Anne Adams-Courtesy of Universal Pictures

1428 Elm: You are the costume designer for three movies coming out this spring. One of those is Happy Death Day 2U. No spoilers here, but based on the trailers, the original cast is back and stuck in a loop. Were you able to change their costumes from the first movie?

WAA: Ryan (Phi Vu) and Carter (Israel Broussard) are in the same looks. Tree (Jessica Rothe) is also in her same look. But I also want fans to looks for some Easter eggs in her costume. We also have a bunch of new characters. So, it was fun to work in the same aesthetic but create new looks.

1428 Elm: Did the actors get a lot of input into their costumes?

WAA: Oh, 100%. I’m a designer who loves to work really close with the actor and the director. And the director of photography because we all work together to make sure we get the look 100%. I love talking to the actors before I get going because so much of how they’re going to play the character really impacts what they wear.

So we talk about the psychology of each character. Why would they buy these clothes in the first place. How long have they been in the closet. Getting into their psyche determines what they put on. And so much of that involves the actor. I had such a good time. I would stay on set a little bit longer than I had to just to spend time with these great people.