As Baz Luhrmann's hip-hop TV series comes to Netflix, exec producer Catherine Martin gives Gotham exclusive details about getting The Get Down up and running.
The costumes in The Get Down verge on fashion, with a focus on distinctive details.
The much-decorated costume and production designer Catherine Martin has won four Academy Awards for her lush approach to period-specific projects—namely, Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby—directed by her husband, Baz Luhrmann. But for the first time, she’s tackling a period she’s actually lived through in The Get Down, a musical drama on Netflix about the emergence of hip-hop in 1970s New York.
How is The Get Down different from your past projects? This is the only period project I’ve worked on where I’ve actually lived through the time. I came to New York City in 1975 when I was 10 years old and remember seeing the Marlborough Man smoking in Times Square and thinking it was one of the wonders of the world.
What made you and Baz choose this time period? Baz has always been incredibly fascinated by how creativity manifests. What is interesting about hip-hop is that, after jazz, it’s the second pure music form that is entirely American. It was also a musical movement born out of circumstance—people wanting to raise themselves up and celebrate at a difficult time and in an underserved area.
Why has this taken 10 years to get off the ground? It’s such an extensive format with so many protagonists that a film didn’t seem like the perfect vehicle, so finding partners like Sony and Netflix gave Baz a canvas that was broad enough to tell the story the way he wanted to tell it.
How much of the show is historically accurate? It was about being as accurate as we can, but at the same time, making the story clear for a modern audience. We’re not making a documentary. The major difference with this project is that the founders of the movement are still with us today—DJ Kool Herc, [Grandmaster] Flash, Afrika Bambaataa are just a few of the figures who collaborated with us on the show.
It seems that the wardrobe is more fashion than costume. I worked with the costume designer Jeriana San Juan on the first episode, and she helmed the rest of the season. What Baz asks as a visualist is that you look at the rich panoply of detail and social history and that you try to make each character distinct in relation to the bigger picture.
What was the most rewarding part of the process? Working with a young cast. For many in the cast, this has been their first time in front of the camera, and the joy, energy, and ability they bring to set will remove any cynicism you may have in your heart.
How do you maintain a successful creative partnership with Baz? Fighting a lot! I think Baz always puts it very nicely: We have a conversation, one that we’ve been having for many years, and sometimes we have it in raised voices. Ultimately, we keep communicating. Netflix releases The Get Down on August 12