How Did Alan Cumming Get Those Eye-Popping Looks on 'The Traitors?'

Saturday February 4, 2023
Originally published on February 3, 2023

Alan Cummng, hosting Peacock's "The Traitors"
Alan Cummng, hosting Peacock's "The Traitors"  (Source:Peacock)

What makes Peacock's "The Traitors" so bingeable? Could it be the concept, which pits some reality stars and regular people together in a spooky Scottish castle for a game that's equal parts "Survivor" and "Clue?"

On this US version, the guests of host Alan Cumming arrive in his castle to learn they will be divided into two groups: one called The Traitors, who will be "murdering" (ie, sending home) one person a night; the others are their victims who meet once a night with the hopes of identifying one of the Traitors and sending them home. Those who survive at the end can split the prize, that is if none of them are Traitors. If that is the case, the Traitor(s) would win the money.

Or could the show, a hit in England after success in the Netherlands, be so addictive because of Cumming, the out Scottish actor who relishes in throwing portraits of the victims on the floor and taunting the contestants with some pretty grosse challenges, including being buried alive and locked in a room while being drenched with maggots and other undesirable creatures. Part of why "The Traitors" pops is Cumming's droll presence, in which he appears to be channeling Vincent Price. He also benefits from one of the fun fashions he wears that use plaids in every combination imaginable. Pink plaid suits. Herringbone tweed capes. Sleek little kilts. "Perhaps, rather alarmingly," Mr. Cumming told the New York Times, "the vast majority of the clothes were mine."

Ardross Castle
Ardross Castle  (Source: Peacock)

The series was shot at Ardross Castle, an estate in the Scottish Highlands once owned by an heir to the Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce empire.

"The set was meant to evoke 'Clue,' the murder-mystery board game turned movie, said Mathieu Weekes, the production designer of 'The Traitors,'" writes the Times. "To freshen up the 19th-century castle, his team decorated it with ruby red dining room chairs, a crimson love seat, an emerald couch and other vibrant furniture. 'Our first reference for color was the film 'Knives Out,'" Weekes said. 'We wanted to make it feel quite quirky.'"

Mr. Weekes added that the look was "quite different to create" than those of previous reality shows he has worked on (among them: "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!"). "We wanted to break from the norm and try to give it sort of its own identity," he said.

Sam Spector, who styled Mr. Cumming for "The Traitors," told the Times that the host's looks needed to "relate to the craziness of this beautiful castle."

Alan Cumming on "The Traitors"
Alan Cumming on "The Traitors"  (Source: Peacock)

"Thankfully," the Times writes, "Mr. Cumming, who is Scottish, had a closet full of suits, kilts and plus fours that could serve as a foundation for the aesthetic he and Mr. Spector wanted to achieve. 'We talked about trying to make this sort of dandy,' Mr. Cumming said, 'this eccentric Scottish laird.' Or, as Mr. Spector put it: Sherlock Holmes, with a touch of 'villain from a James Bond movie.' Robin Emry, a 31-year-old researcher in London who has seen both the British and American versions of "The Traitors," described Cumming's wardrobe as 'Vivienne Westwood meets Vincent Price.'"

Spector went on and "accessorized the host in fly plaids, a type of Scottish scarf worn over one shoulder, hats, capes, sashes and opulent brooches, which tied many of his outfits together (literally and figuratively). Some of his accessories, like a pair of blue opera-length gloves, were made especially for the show."

"The gloves are just hilarious," Cumming said. He wears them with what he called "a little policeman's cape" and a porkpie hat — an eccentric get-up that even he said pushed the limits of an already theatrical wardrobe.

"It's the most mental look," Cumming said, "but I love it."