Why Swamp Thing's Costume Is The 'Cadillac Of Suits' For Star Derek Mears

swamp thing costume up close dc universe
(Image credit: dc universe press)

It's been 26 years since DC Comics' Swamp Thing got a live-action project, but DC Universe's new horror drama proves that the wait was worth it. From the sets to the cast to the writing, Swamp Thing delivers the goods, but part of its success lives or dies with the quality of Swamp Thing himself, as played in creature form by former Jason Voorhees portrayer Derek Mears.

Thankfully, Swamp Thing's central costume is a feat of design wizardry that looks just as good in its plain physical form as it does with some lighting and CGI assistance. While talking with CinemaBlend, in fact, Derek Mears called it the "Cadillac" of the Hollywood costumes he's worn throughout the years. While answering a question of mine about the show's approach to horror elements, here's what Mears told me:

A lot of it was just the time and effort put into the entire process [from] Justin Raleigh, the head of Fractured FX. There are times when people have their budget for the bare minimum of things, like the costs to make the Swamp Thing suit, for example. These guys went above and beyond, and were spending so much time – and in a sense, dipping into their own profits – to make this right. Where it's like, 'No, no, we have to pay extra. It has to be perfect.' Out of all the different suits I've worn throughout the years, this is really the Cadillac of suits.

As Derek Mears stated several times during our talk, everyone involved on the creative side of Swamp Thing went the whole nine yards (and then some) to guarantee that viewers would be watching the most impressive product possible when it debuts on DC Universe. And considering he's the guy tasked with wearing the big and elaborate costume throughout Swamp Thing's first season, Mears is the perfect person to germanely judge the suit's craftsmanship.

Anyone who dives into Swamp Thing is going to quickly notice the show's budget at work. (Seriously, the opening scene sets the murky stage in sublime ways.) Though Derek Mears' creature doesn't play so hugely as a fully formed character in the earliest episodes, fans need not worry about having to wait until the final minutes for a money shot.

Swamp Thing will be a true character, as well, and Derek Mears talked about the costume allowing for more nuanced emotional acting.

There was so much time, love and thought put into it – just the facial makeup alone – that every emotion that Swamp Thing has, you can read it. What I'm doing comes through the make up and can be easily captured on camera.

For those who aren't familiar with Swamp Thing's central set-up, and wonder why the big muck-monster will be getting emotional, here's a quick rundown. Crystal Reed's CDC scientist Abby Arcane is returning to her hometown of Marais, Louisiana to investigate a series of deadly illnesses connected to the area's swamp. Also interested is biologist Alec Holland (Andy Bean), who develops a fast kinship with Abby before disappearing under mysterious circumstances.

Swamp Thing Reviews Are In: Here's What Critics Are Saying About DC Universe's New Superhero Horror

Then, ta-da, Swamp Thing appears. We can't say for sure how DC Universe's take on Swamp Thing will explain Alec's connection to the beastly quasi-hero, but it's clear that the character will at least share some of Alec's capacity for emotional interactions while trying to comprehend what happened. And Derek Mears himself was blown away by it all after getting a peek at himself in character.

Mears, who genuinely comes across as just as much of an enthused fan as anyone else out there, told me about finally looking at his Swamp Thing on camera.

For the first couple of months, I didn't look at anything on the monitors when I was filming, and at one point, one of the producers says, 'Wait a second, you haven't seen anything?' And he goes, 'Here, I have a shot from the monitor on my iPhone with no bells or whistles. Just the raw footage.' And he showed it to me, and I could separate myself from the character. I'm watching it, and my jaw was just agape. I remember texting my manager right after with a slew, a hornet's nest, of curse words, followed by, 'This is what it looks like? How am I a part of this? This is amazing!' So I can't wait for the fans to see as the character evolves throughout the episodes, the TLC that people put into it. I get to wear art, and I'm just so thrilled to be able to do that.

Some fans might think it would be impossible to go that long without watching oneself in performance as Swamp Thing, but Derek Mears is clearly a patient guy. Plus, he was only talking about footage that hadn't been touched up yet. But, spoilerzzz, Mears told me he absolutely loved the full Swamp Thing episodes that he got to watch. It's to be expected, but still good to hear.

CinemaBlend also had the pleasure of talking with Swamp Thing star Crystal Reed, who was just as excited for fans to see the show as Derek Mears was. Knowing that the costume was more of a physical effort than a CGI creation, I asked Reed if it was creepy to have a hulking monster around on set. In her words:

It was a couple times, but [Derek's] personality is so vibrant and gorgeous and huge that it always shine through the costume. So, you know, there were moments where I would just be talking to him and I had to actually remember that he was Swamp Thing. He is who he is, and it just comes through. So it wasn't very scary after a couple episodes.

Fans won't get the option of having conversations with Swamp Thing, though, so there's a good chance a lot of people out there will indeed get spooked by Derek Mears in full costume. And that's when they aren't feeling unsettled by everything else in the dark and mystery-driven episodes.

Swamp Thing's genre pedigree is off the charts, even beyond all the big names that worked on the comic books. The TV series is executive produced by The Conjuring and Saw mastermind James Wan and his Atomic Monster partner Michael Clear, as well as Sleepy Hollow creator and Underworld filmmaker Len Wiseman. It was co-developed by IT Chapter 2 screenwriter Gary Dauberman and Battlestar Galactica writer Mark Verheiden, who also serve as EPs.

Not to mention it's premiering on DC Universe, which already gave the world Titans and Doom Patrol. While both of those shows were more straightforward superhero dramas, each had its own significant and arguably successful approaches to horror-leaning sequences. Swamp Thing doesn't look or feel anything like those two shows, but it'll be right at home all the same. Check out the new full trailer below!

Swamp Thing Season 1 will take over summer TV with its series premiere on DC Universe on Friday, May 31.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.