How 'The Essex Serpent' uses color to tell the growth of a main character

Clare Danes in The Essex Serpent
Clare Danes in The Essex Serpent (Image credit: Apple TV+)

What you need to know

  • *The Essex Serpent used places, colors, and clothes to tell a sub-story involving Claire Danes' character.
  • A new report looks into what went into making everything tell a story without using words.

Apple TV+ show The Essex Serpent is getting a lot of attention right now, as well it should considering it stars two of the biggest names in the business in Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston. Now, a new report looks into how the people behind the show told a whole story of its own via Claire Danes' character.

Danes plays the show's protagonist Cora Seaborne and Variety reports on the work of production designer Alice Normington and costume designer Jane Petrie as the pair worked to tell a story about her.

In the Apple TV+ show, Seaborne lives in London having been newly widowed and that kicks off a mini-story of its own.

Normington's designs touched on the idea of Heaven, Hell, and Earth to portray Cora's turmoil. When the character is at her London house, red tones are a reflection of her past as viewers learn about the abuse she suffered there. "That home is her hell, and the bedroom where she was abused is the mouth of hell," explains the production designer. The red is meant to show "it was violent and passionate," she explains.

But when Seaborne leaves London and moves to the seaside, things change. Her new cottage is painted in a yellow whitewashed finish because "it's the only color that symbolized sunshine, joy, and happiness," says Normington.

It isn't just the places, either, it's the clothes. Jane Petrie put Danes in tense, high collars but as the show progresses, as does the character, that all changes.

By the end, Cora's newfound autonomy is reflected in the brighter colors and warmer textures she wears, and she's in an open-necked top. "Hopefully," Petrie says, "there's a clear visual journey through costume."

If you want to see how Danes' character changes throughout The Esses Serpent you can watch it now on Apple TV+, assuming you have a subscription of course.

If you want to enjoy The Essex Serpent in style, be sure to check out our list of the best Apple TV deals on the market today. Barring that, the streaming service can be watched on just about anything including game consoles, streaming sticks, and more.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.