Conducted and transcribed by Allen W. Wright
Frances Tempest is the costume designer for the first two series of the 2006 Robin Hood TV show by Tiger Aspect and the BBC. She has over 30 years of experience in the industry. Her costume designs have appeared at the National Theatre and the English National Opera. She has received four Emmy nominations and three BAFTA nominations.
..In 2009, Frances spoke at Robin Hood: Media Creature - the 2009 academic conference for Robin Hood studies at the University of Rochester. Her paper was titled "Robin Hood for the Playstation Generation, or Every Age Gets the Robin Hood It Deserves".
This interview was conducted in person in Rochester, NY at the October 2009 Robin Hood academic conference.
..And they really wanted to direct it (new RH series) at a young, masculine -- it was really directed at teenage boys. That's what their audience was. If they could pick up other people along the way, all well and good. But it was to be directed at teenage boys.
AWW: How about the girl audience? It seems that a lot of women liked it.
FT: Robin was supposed to be for the female audience. I don't think he ever achieved that because Guy of Gisborne came along and stole the show. It wasn't meant to be like that but just because of the casting, that's what actually happened.
AWW: I saw that with the "fanfic" discussions. [An earlier conference paper discussed how much of the stories written by fans centered around Gisborne instead of Robin Hood.]
FT: Well, I had no idea because I had never seen North and South [BBC mini-series starring actor Richard Armitage]. I didn't realize that Richard Armitage carried such a big fan base, but he already came with all these thousands of adoring fans. I had no idea about that. And so I clothed him in black leather. Suddenly there were websites all over the place! [Laughs.] I had in my head the image of a racing driver or a motorbike driver - like Alain Delon -- the young Alain Delon. He was going to be a fantastic, sexy racing driver, that was my image for him.
AWW: He also had the duster that was like a western hero, and almost like a regency cape.
FT: It was a cross between a regency cape and Sherlock Holmes and How the West Was Won. I was trying to roll all of those sorts of things into it. Of course, it was tempered - like things always are - by practical considerations. He had to be able to get on and off his horse in it. He had to be able to fight in it. There were stuntmen, but a lot of the actors did an awful lot of their own stuntwork. So all of those practical considerations had to be uppermost.
AWW: You also had the other outfit for Guy, with the piping along the sleeves.
FT: Yes, which was fastened with these wolf's head clips. And then he had wolves on the knuckles -- like knuckle dusters -- on the gauntlets. All I can say is that I spent a lot of time hanging about in motorbike shops in Budapest.
AWW: Guy must have hated his black leather in the summer.
FT: The summers were awful. I mean, it was very good. The boys loved their costumes. They were thrilled when they first put them on. They really got into them, emotionally inhabited them. It was terrific. But that was about March. And by the time August came, they were ... the temperature was over 30 degrees (Celsius). They could hardly move. And Little John in his big leather coat! But he was very good, he didn't try to take it off. Robin kept trying to ... I shouldn't tell you that ... Jonas [Armstrong] kept trying to take all his clothes off, just because he was so hot and to be firmly bundled back into them.
AWW: But Richard Armitage didn't?
FT: No, he loved black leather. He wasn't getting out of that, no matter what. [Laughs.]
AWW: So, what was the design approach to the characters? With Guy, you said it was motorcycle influences.
3.FT: The brief, as much as it existed -- this conversation with Foz -- was to create a mixture of modern and medieval that a young audience would find a point of reference with or respond to and wouldn't alienate them. The executive producer who I talked to later about the whole process said well, we couldn't have put them in tights because it would have looked ridiculous and I thought "why?". But the boys were terrified of wearing tights.
Wonder if she designed this famous Guy costume as well