Leonie Prendergast from Naas, Co. Kildare is the woman behind the look of Amazon’s hugely successful drama Ripper Street which returns this week
At the heart of its success – alongside writing, plotting and acting – is the peerless costume design by Kildare woman Leonie Prendergast.
Leonie, 42, from Naas, Co. Kildare left the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin in 1997 expecting to work in fine art.
But during a stint in London the textiles specialist founder herself diverted into working with embroiderer Karen Spurgin and then on, serendipitously, on kimonos for costume designer Lindy Hemming for The Mikado scenes in Mike Leigh’s acclaimed film about Gilbert and Sullivan, Topsy Turvy.
That was it, the movie bug took hold of her and she gravitated back to Dublin’s embryonic film-making industry, did favours for would-be film makers making their way up, worked on a hundred short films, until she found she and many of her fellow trainees were all the experienced experts in what is now a burgeoning Irish film and TV industry.
Among the people she worked for was Lenny Abrahamson on the critically lauded What Richard Did. She also did the costumes for the recent Jimi Hendrix biopic, All is By My Side starring OutKast star Andre 3000.
At the time of talking to the Irish World earlier this week Lenny had just won a Golden Globe in New York – the sole Irish award winner – for Room.
“It’s fantastic, he’s a lovely man to work with and a great director, it’s great to see him getting that,” she said. “It is funny, a lot of us working here all came up together and we all know each other, we’re now the directors, production designers and costume designers but when we get together we still think we’re the trainees,” she laughed. That, she says, is one of the joys of working on a programme like Ripper Street in Dublin.
Leonie Prendergast puts the bodice into bodice ripper
“We begin shooting series 5 on Monday until the middle of May so when I’m in something that is where my head is, I become completely absorbed in that.
4“For this series we’re in 1897 when a lot of things were changing for women, you had the bicycle, underskirts, a lot of women working, so clothes at the time had to facilitate that, to be more streamlined.
“Also you have some very strong women in this Victorian man’s world and we try to get that across while being true to the traditional Victorian silhouette and without making them subservient.
“So, while sticking to that Victorian silhouette you can do tremendous things with colours and patterns, fabrics and textures to create that whole world of Ripper Street.
“That’s what you bring as a designer, you want to serve the story and the character, you have to be very aware not to over style,” she says.
That said, she admits she would love sometime to perhaps work on some steam punk costume designs – a field she loves – but admits it all depends on the script and the director.
One of the designers working today whom she absolutely and utterly admires – and who has a huge body of work ranging from Beetlejuice to the most recent Cinderella– is Sandy Powell.
What does she think is so good about working in the field she is working in?: “Some people fear the unknown but I love it.
“I thought I was going to be a fine artist but I ended up doing this, I would be in a straitjacket if I did not have this kind of creative outlet.
“Every day is different, trying to solve problems, working with amazing, talented interesting people, amazing directors casts, and actors. I love it.
“I now have an agent in London so I am looking forward to seeing if that brings even more different things.”
Watch the trailer for Season 4 right here:
How Amazon rescued fan favourite
Fan favourite period drama Ripper Street, which was dropped by the BBC but rescued and turned into a smash global hit by Amazon in 2014, is back this month for a fourth series with an explosive feature length episode on 15 January followed by a new episode every week.
The series is made in Dublin with Irish production crews and designers alongside a star cast including David Threlfall and Matthew Lewis, Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring and Charlene McKenna.
The series kicks off with a hard-hitting feature-length episode this Friday 15 January with each new episode being made available weekly every Friday.
“Ripper Street has a tremendously loyal fan base and is nothing short of a British institution. We’re delighted to be launching the new series exclusively for Prime members in the UK.” said Jay Marine, Vice President Amazon Video EU.
“Richard Warlow has crafted another dramatic, thrilling and unmissable series to take Reid, Drake and Jackson even further on their journey through the depths of Victorian crime. We can’t wait to kick off the New Year with another great series, and we know fans will be hooked from the first minute.” Amazon stepped in to save Ripper Street in early 2014, following outcry from fans when the show was cancelled after two series.
Series three launched exclusively for Prime Members in the UK in November 2014, with series one and two made available for unlimited streaming. When Ripper Street series three launched on Prime Video, it was streamed more than any other TV show on the service and was the most popular British drama amongst customers.
All three series are available for Prime members to download and watch or stream now. The new series begins in the summer of 1897 with Queen Victoria celebrating her diamond jubilee. Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) has left the force but is drawn back to Whitechapel when he discovers that his old friend Isaac Bloom (Justin Avoth) is set to hang for a brutal murder; a murder of which Reid believes him incapable.
Ripper Street Series 4 is a Tiger Aspect and Lookout Point production in association with Brown Bear Films for Amazon and BBC Worldwide. It is co-produced with BBC America.
Prime Video offers subscribers unlimited access to over 15,000 popular movies and TV episodes, including an extensive library of leading original and exclusive shows, including Golden Globe® and Emmy® Award winning Transparent, the critically-acclaimed MR. ROBOT, Michael Connelly cop drama Bosch, recently-released The Man in the High Castle, Norseland Drama
Ripper Street Season 4 will be available exclusively on Prime Video from Friday 15th January, with new episodes released weekly