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‘The New Look’s Todd A. Kessler And Lorenzo di Bonaventura


Showrunner Todd A. Kessler and executive producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura joined Deadline’s Contenders TV: Los Angeles event to discuss inspiration, casting and balancing facts with fiction for Apple TV+‘s latest historical series The New Look.

The series, set under the Nazi occupation of Paris during WWII, tells the story of fashion designers Christian Dior (Ben Mendelsohn), Coco Chanel (Juliette Binoche), and their contemporaries as they navigate the horrors of World War II and launch modern fashion. As Dior rises to prominence with his groundbreaking, iconic imprint of beauty and influence, Chanel’s reign as a world-famous fashion designer is jeopardized. 

Even in a world mostly comprised of silky fabrics and glittering emblems, bringing a historical drama to life is not without its challenges. Carefully unraveling the spools of thread regarding the complex involvement of fashion icons during a pivotal moment in world history was at the forefront of Kessler and di Bonaventura’s mind when it came to trying to unbiasedly portray Chanel’s role in being a Nazi informant.

As recently as 2014, French intelligence agencies declassified and released documents that confirmed many of Chanel’s WWII exploits, such as her role with working as a spy for the Third Reich to take control of Madrid. 

“It was very important to read as much as we could and then try to construct a story out of it [to be] authentic to the history and also entertaining,” Kessler said. “And the type of storytelling that really excites us is to not lead the audience and tell them in this kind of story, who is good and who is bad. But instead, let the audience experience the lives of the characters and the choices that they’ve made during such a heightened period of history during the Nazi occupation of Paris, and that you could find yourself in one episode really empathizing with Coco Chanel or Christian Dior, and then the next episode feeling very frustrated with them. But they’re complex people, and we try to show as much of that complexity as possible so that the audience can have that experience.” 

RELATED:  Contenders TV: Deadline’s Full Coverage

Di Bonaventura also added regarding Chanel’s covert liaisons with German generals. “We have to capture who [Dior and Chanel] were rather than try to slot them as the villain or the good guy,” he said. “Coco, in particular, I never knew about her Nazi connection. And it’s an interesting thing because it made us ask ourselves many questions, which is, when you’re under the pressure that they’re under, they don’t know that this occupation is going to end in two years. It could end in 50 years. So it’s easy for us to sit back and go, ‘I would never do that,’ but it’s not real. So, the obligation is to know them as people as much as one can. I don’t like Coco’s choices, but she’s not pro-fascist. They call her a sympathizer, but I’d say she cavorts with Nazis.”

Check back on Monday for the panel video.



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