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On Comedy Central’s Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens, loving, foul-mouthed Grandma (Lori Tan Chinn) ups her delightfully audacious style on season two, which premiered Aug. 18, thanks to the joint effort of costume designer Staci Greenbaum and the actress.
“Lori and I talk about what we want Grandma to maybe be saying. Oftentimes, it’s subversive,” says Greenbaum, who also outfits Chinn in “highly collectible” Air Jordans and finery that references style icon Iris Apfel.
Continuing a streak of bold statements from last season — like “Asians Don’t Raisin” — Chinn brought in about 20 of her own tops (often in sturdy, supportive black fabrics to avoid needing to wear constrictive bras) for Greenbaum to select from. In a “Harvard” T-shirt modified to “HARD,” Grandma rudely awakens an oversleeping Nora (Awkwafina) in the premiere.
Later, she sartorially declares she’s a “Chinese Badass,” supports the AAPI community with an “Asian American Girl Club” sweatshirt and watches Judge Judy in a Sen. Tammy Duckworth-emblazoned tee accented with a Ruth Bader Ginsburg-inspired collar, which Chinn found on Etsy. In episode five, which airs on Sept. 8, she stays salty in a T-shirt that says “Nasty Grandma.”
Says Greenberg, “One of the things that’s so appealing about Lori playing Grandma is the fire. That extra personality and character and zest for life. We integrate both Lori’s vibrant and amazing personality, plus it’s a platform that we should be using for good.”
Adds Chinn, a former dancer with a background in theater, “I like the messages that I have a lot. I’ve got even more that you haven’t seen yet.”
As for that Iris Apfel-inspired look, Grandma wears it in episode three when she’s readying for a visit from a wealthy cousin and decides to sartorially flex. Greenbaum originally put Grandma in a bootleg Gucci T-shirt, misspelled “Guggi,” but then pivoted to a luxe velvet robe jacket and layers of breakaway jade necklaces. “It was a beaut and I love that outfit,” says Chinn. “I couldn’t turn it down. And no offense to the ‘Guggi’ T-shirt, but I love [Iris]. I love her choices of things and to be like her. It was lovely. And I want that jacket. Thanks so much [to Staci].”
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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