‘Black Cake’ costume designer Hayley Nebauer on hiding Easter eggs for fans of the beloved novel [Exclusive Video Interview]

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The new Hulu limited series “Black Cake” spans not just decades but continents and class structures – all of which made for some pretty impressive challenges for costume designer Hayley Nebauer.

Based on the best-selling book by Charmaine Wilkerson and executive produced by Oprah Winfrey, the eight-episode series moves from the 1940s into the present day, with stops in Jamaica, London, Italy, and Southern California. The show focuses on a woman named Eleanor, whose death unearths many secrets from the past – particularly what happened when she was a young teenager in Jamaica who went by the name of Covey. Mia Isaac stars as the young Covey, with Adrienne Warren and Bashy as Eleanor’s adult children who must reckon with a series of audio recordings their mother left behind as part of her will. “Women of the Movement” and “13 Reasons Why” writer Marissa Jo Cerar is the “Black Cake” creator and showrunner.

More from GoldDerby

SEE‘Black Cake’ reviews: Mia Isaac is ‘incredible’ in Hulu’s ‘beautiful and gutting’ new mystery drama

“When I first read the scripts, you kind of want to start with the part you’re most excited about, which for me was the ‘60s in Jamaica because I didn’t know a lot about it,” Nebauer tells Gold Derby as part of our Meet the Experts costume designers panel. “I had to get into the heavy research and find out not what I already knew about the ‘60s generally for fashion from other countries. But what was happening in Jamaica at the time, what were the little truths and the nuances that helped tell the story and get the feeling right for who those people were, and how they expressed themselves in that specific place in time.”

In the early stages of “Black Cake,” the brightly colored life of a teenager in the West Indies belies some of the traumas to come. But the setting allowed Nebauer to play with the color palette, especially in the various items of swimwear Covey and her friends wear. 

“All the swimwear was genuinely custom-made using vintage references, we had fabrics printed up with the vintage prints to match choosing all the colors. So we had some nice harmonious contrasts between the pairs of characters when they’re in the water and at the beach. It was it was quite a lot of fun,” Nebauer explains. “It was all these sort of sunbleached tropical colors and sorbets, and optimistic and refreshing and light.”

After a shocking event at Covey’s wedding, however, the show moves to London in the 1960s, where the bright colors are replaced by drab grays. “When the story moves to London, it’s not a place of hope – it’s not the swingin’ London in the ‘60s. It’s very bleak and it’s desaturated,” Nebauer says. “We also had another color palette for Edinburgh, and we had some Italy and then also some for contemporary Los Angeles. So as the episodes and the stories jump back and forth from one place to another, the audience is instantly planted in that part of the narrative and knows where they are. It sets the tone for where the story’s going next.”

Nebauer also subtracted a significant color from the palette, thus creating an Easter egg for fans of the book. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice the lack of the color lilac, which the generations of women in the source novel abhor.

“It’s an instinctive thing, and for us, in ‘Black Cake,’ that color only comes up in very few selected occasions when there’s a real feeling of disgust about what’s happened or what’s about to happen next,” Nebauer says. “And it’s a very subtle little visual cue, but that’s something that is sort of planted like an Easter egg throughout.”

“Black Cake” is streaming on Hulu.

PREDICT the 2023 Emmy winners through January 15

Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify Hollywood chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?

SIGN UP for Gold Derby’s free newsletter with latest predictions

Best of GoldDerby

Sign up for Gold Derby's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.