April 2024

Screened Style | The Equalizer

Celebrated Costume Designer Paolo Nieddu Finds Front-Row Fashion For The Hit Action Series Where Style Packs A Punch

CBS's The Equalizer reimagines the classic series and stars Academy Award nominee and multi-hyphenate Queen Latifah as Robyn McCall, a modern day New York City-based fixer whose mysterious background serves as a key plotline on the show. Using an array of her skills as a former CIA operative, she helps the borough's locals with nowhere to turn. To many, she presents as an average single mom quietly raising her teenage daughter, but she leads a double life as The Equalizer: an anonymous guardian angel and defender of the downtrodden. Robyn’s clandestine work and her personal life collide when daughter, Delilah, and her aunt Vi, who lives with Robyn to help her balance life as a working mother, discover her secret career as a vigilante. In her pursuit of justice, Robyn teams with Mel Bayani, an edgy bar owner and sniper from Robyn’s past, and Harry Keshegian, a paranoid and brilliant white-hat hacker.



Robin McCall (Queen Latifah), Harry Keshegian (Adam Goldberg), Mel Bayani (Liza Lapira), Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes), and Vi Marsette (Lorraine Toussaint). 


Charlie's Angels. The show's creators envisioned the characters to be fashionable and cool, and unlike the look of a typical procedural. Set in New York City, hacker Harry (Adam Goldberg) and bar owner Mel (Liza Lapira) look edgy. Queen Latifah's Robin McCall is also fashion-forward, as a cool and modern vigilante. The look for Aunt Vi (Lorraine Toussaint), is all about being artsy. Costume Designer Paolo Nieddu (Empire; United States vs. Billie Holiday) began building mood boards and utilizing Pinterest to see which images he gravitated towards, then taking things a bit further by applying his accessorized, glamorous aesthetic.


Tough street glam. Not your average tshirt and jeans, but a heightened version.


"It's a coat show, all day', says Nieddu. Camo on McCall in the pilot was a big jumping off point...a Valentino men's trench in distressed navy and black and grey.  It's a coat Queen Latifah's character has worn more than once, "And", explains Nieddu, "we don't do a lot of repeating!" What followed was a focus on her earrings because of how visible they get to be in every scene. Earrings are chosen to pair with looks based on how much action the show's star is taking part in.


Robin McCall wears navy and darker jewel tones. She sports color and print, but in a darker palette. Mel's look is the 'pop", as Paolo describes it. Harry has a denim palette, and with her psychedelic patterns, Aunt Vi's look adds contrast. McCall's daughter, Delilah, (Laya DeLeon Hayes) has grown up across four seasons, but she remains youthful, wearing a little bit or color and print, and always perfectly blending with what the rest of the characters are wearing. Dark costumes are worn when the characters are doing certain operations. Overall color tone is 'cement and Gotham-y'. In designing for The Equalizer's characters, Nieddu likes to play with color mood and feel of the world upstairs and outside, compared to the downstairs of the bar's "sanctum".


Leather. Faux fur. Distressed prints and darker prints on Robin McCall. "Psychedelic" and boho prints and patchwork on Aunt Vi. Cool tones and brights on Mel. Denim on Harry. Delilah's prints and textures mimic what her character might borrow from her mother or her Aunt Vi.


For Robin McCall, a statement earring; a major coat. For Aunt Vi, a kimono. For Harry, Japanese denim. For Mel, cut-outs and asymmetry. Delilah is eclectic as a  teen experimenting with her look, with her signature Doc Martens and name knuckle ring.


A broad spectrum of fashion resources are used, because each character is so different from the next, in terms of style. Vintage clothing; Farfetch; Net A Porter; pieces from Soho and Madison Avenue boutiques; designer items often transferred from designer stores in Las Vegas or Miami; Dior, Givenchy, and Urban Outfitters for Delilah, to name a few.


"Working with an icon like Queen Latifah has been amazing. Dressing her in high fashion while having to ground her look in reality and also keeping her stunts and action in mind, is a challenge that keeps things interesting! There are days when we are waiting until the 11th hour for my DHL deliveries to land, filled with the clothing multiples required to dress to her character."  -Paolo Nieddu


"No one carries a purse!" Nieddu shares that on The Equalizer, there's really no place for handbags. He and actor Lorraine Toussaint who plays Aunt Vi, joke during fittings about her character's always-at-home status. "You're going outta the house today!', Paolo teases. For The Equalizer's youngest character, Delilah, he creates a fashion narrative: a painted sweatshirt she wore was created for her by her artistic aunt; she rocks a pair of earrings she took from her mom. Actor Adam Goldberg told us he is a "dedicated follower of fashion" when Story + Rain interviewed him about his character Harry Keshigian in Screened, so much of his look and the pieces you see him wear on the series come straight from his own closet.


If you're a Robin, ready yourself with an arsenal of statement coats and earrings. If you favor boho flow à la Aunt Vi, choose earthy and artsy prints, kimonos, and retro 70's pieces like bell bottoms. If Mel's style speaks to you, pick pieces that are cropped, think about colors that pop, and cultivate a collection of cut-outs. If your style is eclectic and youthful, it's all about Delilah. Experiment with it all, combining contrasting pieces. If you're into Harry's distinct dapper, ground your look in high-quality denim, and think wallet chains, silver necklaces, and statement eyewear.

Queen Latifah as Robin McCall.

Alexander mcqueen chiaroscuro floral blazer
$2690.00 DETAILS
John varvatos  andrew distressed leather trucker jacket
$698.00 DETAILS
Eric javits night porter leather cap
$345.00 DETAILS
Good american camo cargo uniform jacket
$189.00 DETAILS
Simone i smith satin finished hoop earrings
$80.00 DETAILS
Todd snyder   champion satin bomber jacket
$598.00 DETAILS

Lorraine Toussaint as Vi Marsette.

Johnny was zuzu embroidered jacket
$190.00 DETAILS
Free people just float on printed flare jeans
$70.00 DETAILS
Sundance color coded necklace
$288.00 DETAILS
Urban outfitters ophelia medallion beaded belt
$35.00 DETAILS
Vintage coogi sweater
$490.00 DETAILS
Kingman turquoise and pink dahlia mohave sterling silver adjustable cluster ring
$112.50 DETAILS

Liza Lapira as Mel Bayani.

Skims fits everybody long sleeve crewneck dress
$88.00 DETAILS
A.l.c. reeve cropped tweed jacket
$240.00 DETAILS
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$550.00 DETAILS
Simkhai rae foiled metallic skinny jeans
$295.00 DETAILS
Alice   olivia delaina long sleeve crop top
$275.00 DETAILS
Steve madden confident multi heeled bootie
$39.99 DETAILS

Laya DeLeon Hayes as Delilah.

Superdown darla mini skirt
$42.00 DETAILS
Alice   olivia cay baggy cargo jeans
$395.00 DETAILS
Cult gaia danton feathered merino wool cable sweater
$373.00 DETAILS
Larroude  dolly suede platform boots
$475.00 DETAILS
Frances valentine erika jacket faux fur leopard
$278.00 DETAILS
Jennifer fisher 1.5  jamma baby hoops
$375.00 DETAILS


Best known for his Emmy-nominated work on the hit show Empire, Costume Designer, Paolo Nieddu is currently working on the new CBS hit television show The Equalizer starring Queen Latifah. Nieddu recently designed the Lee Daniel’s 2021 biographical film The United States vs. Billie Holiday, starring Andra Day who won a Golden Globe for her role as the legendary jazz singer. NIeddu arrived in New York City from Detroit at the age of 22, with a degree in fashion design and began working in the Patricia Field boutique where he became immersed in the downtown culture. Soon after landing an internship with Interview magazine's fashion department, he began utilizing his love of fashion and pop culture in pursuing a career as a stylist. Assisting on freelance styling projects for top stylists led to a reunion with Field - this time as an Assistant Costume Designer on Sex and the City: The Movie. Paolo went on to work on various other fashion-centric film and television projects, such as Confessions of a Shopaholic, Ugly Betty, and Smash, along with styling the likes of Nicki Minaj, Andrew Garfield, Lena Dunham, Coco Rocha and Marina and the Diamonds and dressing celebrities from Kim Cattrall to Cameron Diaz to Martha Stewart for red carpet events, commercials and appearances. Recent work has included the feature film The Other Woman, and the pilot for the Eva Longoria NBC show Telenovela. In 2015, Paolo returned to the Lee Daniel’s created hit Empire which he had originally designed the pilot for. Paolo was recognized for his work on Empire with four Emmy nominations and one Costume Designer Guild Award. His work has been covered by every fashion magazine and often cited as one of the “Best dressed shows on TV.” Paolo Nieddu has continued to straddle the worlds of film, television, commercial, editorial and celebrity styling, proving himself to be a truly versatile and in-demand creative artist.