Everyone needs to break free every now and then… especially pirates. The pirate lifestyle is liberating, of course, but it can also be monotonous. That’s why holidays like Calypso’s birthday are so important to slow down and really celebrate properly.
Of course, his episode 6 joke Our flag means death Season 2, “Calypso’s Birthday,” is it not an actual holiday, sacred or otherwise. As a bewildered Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) has to tell Stede (Rhys Darby) about the crew’s request to honor Calypso with a big bang: “Yeah, they’re just trying to cover you up. It’s just a contrived excuse for a big party.” But, Stede being Stede, he embraces it all the same. And so, the crew prepares a proper Calypso birthday soiree — and Our flag means deathThe backstage crew had to make it all happen.
The primary goal, like anyone working Our FlagHis productive side, he’ll tell you, was making sure things looked like they could be properly sourced from pirates scouring a market for improvised party decorations.
“We couldn’t get too commercial with our decorations, because they’re still items that have to look bought and available in the floating market of the pirate republic,” says Ra Vincent, the show’s production designer. “So in choosing our materials, we were very careful not to do something too manufactured.”
However, the Revenge party had to tell a story with all its little aspects – and in this case, be a little bright after a very dark moment for the crew. “There’s a little bit of a dark streak running through Season 2, and that was a moment to really celebrate,” says Vincent. “A little moment of joy for these characters – and actually dive a little deeper into the genre of who they are [they are] becoming more complete characters and finding out what the happy side is.”
Which meant of each The Calypso party look had to not only stand out, but be full of small details, the kind that the camera could barely catch. After so many episodes of most characters wearing the same clothes, the Our flag means death The team made a conscious effort to introduce new elements to express the characters in a happier environment.
The color palette was based on the flowers and fruits of the season: things like vibrant bougainvillea flowers or watermelons (although the ones we see in the episode are fake, as it was the end of winter in New Zealand). They used natural dyes for the clothes, which Vincent points out “look better on camera anyway,” but also worked as a nice period touch. And it was important to costume designer Gypsy Taylor that they literally steal some of the market elements — they are pirates, after all.
“Let’s imagine they’ve plucked some flowers and then come back and put them in their hats. Or they’ve stolen, for example, a beautiful lace thing they’ve seen and decided to decorate their neck,” says Taylor.
Behind the scenes, Taylor and hair and makeup designer Nancy Hennah made sure their looks were tailored to them while still working as a whole unit.
“We went through and lined up the photos of each match to get the different positions of that makeup on their face – so they looked good as a team, not just as one character,” says Hennah. “We did a lot of practice before we even got the cast.”
For Hennah, Taylor and Vincent, the character was in the tiny details, even if few of them would be big moments on camera: The silverware on the table is all mismatched. Blackbeard’s appearance is close to what he looked like at the end of Season 1, to reflect both his inner turmoil and his butterflies around Stede. Hena and her team worked hard to find grease that would look like the crew could have found it on the boat. Even Ned Lowe (Bronson Pinchot) had an appearance with small features that tell a larger story, such as Pinchot wanting Ned to look like he was “rotting from the inside out,” an appearance achieved by suggesting that he has probably smelled of gunpowder. Taylor says her team even made hundreds of fake rats so they could be put together to make someone a “nice fur jacket,” pirate-style.
But the party has to stop and pay tribute to Calypso, in this case Wee John (Kristian Nairn), who shows up in full drag and looking properly glam.
If you’re thinking that Wee John’s outfit looks hard to source from a pirate market – sure, you could argue that good tulle is hard to come by on the high seas, and Taylor took some artistic license to put some rhinestones on it too (“Because, you know, how could I not?”).
But Hena and Taylor still saw Wee John’s look as one that he saved from things he had access to during his travels. “We knew that earlier we had this thing where they found the indigo powder. So we knew this blue existed, we could get a metallic blue [makeup] that could be around, it could have been something she had saved from anything,” says Hennah. In her mind, Wee John wanted this almost as much as Nairn: “I think she’s been trying to get into drag for years!”
(If that’s not enough of an explanation, consider Vincent’s argument that the show already has a “broad” approach to historical accuracy, and “giving up historical accuracy to make room for a fictional theatrical performance” is what Our flag means death is everything.)
It’s just that kismet Hennah’s makeup designs worked well with Taylor’s main inspiration for the Wee John look: Divine, the legendary drag queen who starred in more than a few of John Waters’ movies.
“I just thought: What is happy?Taylor says. “And then just like that, Well, look, Ursula [from The Little Mermaid] divine inspired! So I did a full cycle of Divine to Ursula on Wee John [and] back to Divine.
“And I wanted to do my little ode, my own version, which was: If it was going to be Divine, but you’re at sea, and you’re just making a costume out of what you can find in the ocean, we had a giant winged boa from algae”.
Aren’t they real algae? which would be too fragile to wear. But Taylor and her team built a very real-looking seaweed boa out of “thousands” of silicone and fabric pieces. And true to the source of the whole Calypso affair, the top of Wee John’s dress is lined with shells and pāua shells, some of the “only shiny things Wee John had access to.”
In the end, though, Wee John’s grand entrance comes up short – not by antagonist Ned Lowe, but rather by Izzy (Con O’Neill), whose turn for the celebrations is set to music with a performance of “La Vie en Rose .” It’s a moment that Taylor says brought tears to the eyes of many on the set: “It was like a siren full of charming sea, you know?”
But it’s also a moment when O’Neill struggled to remain completely sweet and down-to-earth.
“Con really, really wanted Izzy to look pretty and not be a comical kind of look,” says Hennah. “He was really focused on the fact that Izzy was going through this process for his character and the love of Blackbeard and all the other things that are going on. And he really wanted to be beautiful – and that’s really what happened.”
Among the details was it critical to get it right, for both Izzy and Wee John? Eyebrows.
“It took us four or five completely different brows before we found the right line,” says Hennah. “They just didn’t have the right height and they didn’t have a kind of… [these] just to look softer and more beautiful. They didn’t look like bad eyebrows or funny eyebrows. It was just the most beautiful version.”
Here’s the advice she’d give to anyone trying to throw their own Calypso party (whatever day the party is, of course): “A good eyeshadow palette with lots of metallics and blues. Eyebrows are very important.”
They may seem small, but these are the details that make it Our flag means death The crew hoped to provide the crew of Revenge to make the world feel more alive. It feels a little more special under the spell of “Calypso’s Birthday,” where the lighting is always soft and the vibes consistently great (aside from the ship boarding of course). Even in the turmoil of his first murder, Stede is swept up in the magic of it all, kissing Ed passionately before tucking him into bed. But that too is the goal of the show and the relief that Calypso’s party was intended to provide.
Calypso’s birthday has the juice to make anyone fall in love — just look at those lanterns! But ultimately, Hennah, Taylor and Vincent emphasized that throwing your own Calypso party is a personal journey. “Calypso’s Birthday” is just one example of what could be the honor of the holiest day in the “Calypsyan” calendar. And the most important thing is to always have fun and be yourself with it.
“If there were another dozen characters with different personalities, Calypso’s party could look quite different, but it would have the same energy behind it, but with a different aesthetic,” says Vincent. “So it’s all about attitude.”
That said, Vincent did offer a little practical advice born out of knowing what it takes to put together a set like this: “Scale is what helps these particular parties in their celebrations. They have the ability to raise decorations high in the masts and, you know, it creates a sense of grandeur. And if you’re able to climb the tree in the backyard and hang your festoons from a safe height, then you’re creating an environment where you can have wild vegetation.”