INTERVIEW

"It's been absolutely bonkers but brilliant. I'm very lucky"

Helen McCusker chats to The Dundalk Democrat about her exciting career as a costume designer and wardrobe assistant

Tia Clarke

Reporter:

Tia Clarke

Email:

tia.clarke@dundalkdemocrat.ie

"It's been absolutely bonkers but brilliant. I'm very lucky"

Helen McCusker on the set of Fair City

Helen McCusker has been working in the TV and film industry as a costume supervisor and costume designer for almost 20 years now.

The Dundalk woman, who is now based in Dublin, has worked on massive productions such as the Vikings TV series, Breakfast on Pluto (which starred Cillian Murphy) and a spate of RTÉ productions.

Helen (second from right) pictured with fashion designer John Paul Gaultier (far left) at the Eurovision 

However one of the proudest moments of her career to date was when she travelled to Lisbon, Portugal last month as the part of the entourage for the 2018 Irish Eurovision entrant, Ryan O'Shaughnessy.

The live performance for the Irish song ‘Together’ featured dancers depicting a gay romance and was cut off mid-broadcast from TV in China.

“I was over styling the Irish lads at the Eurovision this year. There was some controversy surrounding the live performance, which made the New York Times and caused the European Broadcasting Committee to get involved. I was so proud that they sent their message of 'Love is Love' around the world,” Helen explained.


And there have been plenty of other highlights in Helen’s illustrious career. Looking back, she reflects: “I've been so, so lucky, throughout my career.”


But back to the beginning for now. After graduating from a Fashion Degree at NCAD in Dublin, Helen started out working as a costume designer in theatre. Ms. McCusker says she was drawn to the profession as she was “always interested in what you can do with clothes and textiles”.


And whilst the Dundalk woman says it was “great fun” working in theatre, she soon learned that there was more work in the film and TV industries here in Ireland.


Once Helen returned to Ireland from living in Berlin, she began pursuing roles in the Irish TV and film industry. And she's never looked back since.

Helen with the Vikings crew in Morocco 


Years of steady work followed on film sets for titles such as Evelyn and Reign of Fire and the series Tudors before the Dundalk woman began working with RTÉ.


“I worked with RTÉ, on the set of Fair City for five great years and then went off and worked as a costume supervisor with the TV show Vikings. And now I've come full circle, and I'm back working with RTÉ,” Helen explains.


The diversity of the work is something that Helen McCusker relishes - one day she might be styling the presenters and guests on the Afternoon Show and the next she could be working with the presenters of Primetime Investigates and then helping to style the contestants of Dancing in the Stars.


“RTÉ is an amazing place to work. It's very unique in terms of how much they do on site here,” she says.


And as you would expect for someone working in such an industry, Helen has met many famous faces. At the Eurovision last month, she bumped into one of her heroes, the fashion designer John Paul Gaultier.


“He's a big hero of mine. My knees were shaking. I've met so many people and had such wonderful experiences in this job,” explains Helen.

Helen (far left) with the Irish 2018 Eurovision crew 


The costumes expert has also crossed paths with actors such as Steven Berkoff, Cate Blanchett, Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maggie Smith and Peter O'Toole.


Some of her favourite productions so far include the 2004 film Ella Enchanted which she describes as “mental but great” and 2005's Breakfast on Pluto with Cillian Murphy, who Helen says is a “total beaut”.


As for advice to young people who might want to work in the profession, McCusker says the old adages ring true: “If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. My advice is to just go with it and find your niche. If you do that, there'll always be work there.”


Helen's own passion for the profession is still evident. She adds: “There is great energy on a set. It's a very unique place to work. It's been absolutely bonkers, but brilliant. I feel very lucky.”