Kerry Washington, Charlize Theron, Sophia Ann Caruso, and Sofia Wylie discuss modern-day heroines and storytelling through costume design
For the cast of The School For Good And Evil, working on the film was a chance to collaborate and redefine the next generation of fairytales and heroines. More than the typical prince-meets-princess, happily-ever-after trope, the film explores personal growth, struggle, and the power of female friendships.
The fantasy film, which adapts a series of the same name by Soman Chainani, follows two best friends, Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie), who grow up in a small town called Gavaldon.
The pair, who are often labeled misfits, dream of bigger things. By fate and by hope, an unknown force brings both of them to The School For Good And Evil. Sophie, who dreamt of going to The School for Good, ends up at The School for Evil. Agatha ends up in The School For Good but is desperate to find Sophie and return home. They meet their deans, Professor Dovey (Kerry Washington) and Professor Lesso (Charlize Theron). The young girls must navigate their new circumstances while battling greater forces at work.
The fantastical feel of the film is aided by the character’s wealth of handmade costumes that add to the narrative just as much as any other element in this film. More than being stylish, the character’s looks in the film allude to their backgrounds, personalities, hopes, and desires. Vogue Philippines speaks to Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Sofia Wylie, and Sophia Anne Caruso to find out more:
Like many kids around the world, the film’s young protagonists Sofia Wylie and Sophia Anne Caruso both grew up watching Disney classics. Wylie dreamt of being an otherworldly creature like Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Meanwhile, Caruso fancied herself going down the rabbit hole like Alice in Alice In Wonderland.
The film’s deans on the other hand; Charlize Theron and Kerry Washington, are a bit warier about the classic tales. As fate would have it, the four women are now starring in their own fairytale story—one that redefines outdated tropes for a brand new generation, all while dressed to the nines in handmade creations. For Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron, despite having played Queen Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsmen, her introduction to fairytales came later on in life. Having grown up in South Africa, her childhood was formed around African mythology and literature.
Theron only really came to know the storybook classics as an adult reading to her children, where she discovered much of the tales were actually quite problematic for modern times. Her equally acclaimed co-star and fellow professor at The School For Good And Evil, Kerry Washington had similar thoughts about the stories, having grown up hearing the dark classics of The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.
To Washington, these stories don’t compare to the current stories—the likes of Raya or Moana, and their own film. She explains, “These girls have agency and power and they’re courageous and they’re not waiting around for anybody. They’re really living their own stories.”
Fashion As A Storytelling Medium
One thing viewers will notice throughout the film are the fantastic costumes on display that truly complement each character throughout their journey. Speaking to the cast, it’s clear the resounding praise for the whole process was how collaborative it all was. Director Paul Feig and costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus encouraged each of them to contribute to their characters looks.
A New Look For Heroines
Caruso says, “[They were] wonderful about wanting us to have a say in what we wanted to look like, how we wanted to act, what we wanted the environment to feel like and be, which is not something I’ve ever experienced before.” Her character Sophie goes through quite the transition, from a simple town’s girl, to a school misfit, eventually giving herself a self-makeover transformation that sees her in the most fashionable fairytale ensembles you could dream of.
For Wylie, there was one personal aspect she wanted to make sure made it into the film. As a young girl who once dreamed of becoming a princess, her major request was to not let her character’s curly hair become straight. Many outdated makeover scenes often feature a gorgeous girl with wild curly hair emerging magically silky straight. Wylie tells Vogue Philippines, “I didn’t want that to be any sort of representation of what a princess should look be – that her hair becomes straight when it’s curly. Like her hair can still be curly and untamed and that doesn’t take away from any form of princessness.”
Just A Bit Of Beyonce
Theron and Washington sing equally high praises of their team. The former says she felt safe in their hands, knowing director Paul Feig was “an exquisite dresser.” The latter describes how they pulled references from everywhere; old fairytales, new stories, and even a little bit of Beyonce.
The film sees Washington transform into a complex professor with all the makings of a fairy godmother, while Theron steps out in a severe silhouette and graphic red hair, devilishly ready to teach her students some villainy.
The pair lead the narrative for a complex discussion on what it really means to be good or evil, and how people are often both. Washington and Theron tell Vogue Philippines that if they were to teach at The School For Good and Evil, they would join forces to make sure their students learned a balance of both. Washington says, “I would immediately want to open up the curriculum so that we could talk, not just about what goodness looks like or how people perform goodness, but really what it means to be good. So that it’s not just about like perfectionism of your appearance, but really calling yourself to your highest ideals.”