‘We Were the Lucky Ones’: How Minute Details in Costume Helped Joey King Become Halina

In Hulu’s “We Were the Lucky Ones,” Joey King plays Halina, a young girl who dreams of finding romance, but the looming Second World War throws her life down another unimaginable path. Based on Georgia Hunter’s book, the series follows the true story of the Kurc family living in Poland and how the Holocaust threatened to rip the family apart.

In dressing Halina, costume designer Lucy Duncan made sure to keep outfits anchored in the period of Polish history. Florals and bright clothing give way to darker palettes as Halina battles to survive.

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Here, King and Duncan reflect on bringing authenticity to Halina’s costumes and how hair, makeup and costume helped the actor transform.

What was the process of bringing Halina to life through costume?

LUCY DUNCAN: We were lucky to get some of Georgia’s family photos, but there were only a few of Halina, once filming began, we found even more. But I read the script and the book and tried to get into that world. And then, I went on a hunt for clothing from the period. Halina wears a lot of original period clothing. So, I’d go to all the costume houses and vintage markets. I had buyers looking for vintage clothes, and I’d see items and think, ‘That’s Halina.’ We had so many changes – 46 for her.

Joey, what was it like working with Lisa and building that first outfit we see you in?

JOEY KING: I’m focused on the accent, the lines and getting the emotions right. And I walked into my first fitting with Lisa, and there were no questions. She thought of everything. My undergarments are from the correct period, the bra that you never see and the slip were all so thought-out. It was so detailed. Every detail was so helpful mentally.

Halina is the youngest, so she’s more youthful with her patterns, and what’s so great about Lisa is she intentionally pulled pieces for each of us because she really thought about what our character’s journey was and where we were in the story at that specific time.

That first Passover scene we see is so important because it shows the family together. What colors did you use on Halina and what did you want to say in that scene?

DUNCAN: I wanted to show the joy and love in the family. I was looking at pictures of Halina in real life and she had style. They were a stylish family. So, I put her in a beautiful floral chiffon 1930s dress and the colors were amazing on Joey. It was really about showing the joy and someone on the cusp of growing up without too many cares with an amazing supportive family. That was setting up who they were because life was changing rapidly. As it got darker, the colors got somber.

We Were the Lucky Ones -- “Radom” - Episode 101 -- The Kurc family celebrates Passover in Radom, Poland. One year later, the onset of World War II forces a devastating separation. Halina (Joey King), shown. (Photo by: Vlad Cioplea/Hulu)
Halina’s chiffon dress was a reflection of her youth and happiness.

How do their costume evolve, given the circumstances of this family being separated?

DUNCAN: I really did keep the family in the 1930s because I felt quite strongly that firstly, they’re not living in New York or London or Paris. They’re in Radom, Poland. It felt very much that they would be wearing 1930s clothes. War broke out and they wouldn’t have been shopping and seeing the fashions of Hollywood. I was very conscious. I wanted them to always look like they were wearing what they had and those clothes were good fabrics.

KING: When you think about how many years our show spans, it’s very true and that’s what would have happened. So the fact that in Episode 3 we see a piece repeated later in Episode Six — many years have passed and they’re still wearing these clothes because that’s all they have. The clothes were often impractical.

We Were the Lucky Ones -- “SIBERIA” - Episode 103 -- Genek and Herta are sent on a grueling train ride. Addy escapes Europe by sea. Halina starts a new job in Soviet-Occupied Lvov. Halina (Joey King), shown. (Photo by: Vlad Cioplea/Hulu)
Halina starts a new job in Soviet-Occupied Lvov.

You mentioned good fabrics, what did that mean in terms of what you used?

DUNCAN: So much of it was rented. We had hundreds of 1930s coats made from sturdy wool. There were so many suits. Most of our tailoring was from the period, but we did make a lot of beautiful coats that we copied.

In the show, Halina uses coats to trade and pass off as Aryan. How do you incorporate that into her arc?

DUNCAN: I wanted to make sure it didn’t look like we were taking it lightly. I didn’t want them to suddenly look like they were dressed too fashionably, too frivolously, and wearing things they couldn’t afford. I just always wanted to make it feel real. There were times when Halina had moved cities and was trying to pass Aryan and had to look a certain way for her job. So, she was earning money and she did get some new clothes,  I would be careful to restrict them. So she only had a few pieces, and they would be worn over and over.

KING: It’s interesting because there she’s passing as Aryan, it’s important she blends in. It looks like she can afford the same things everyone else can, but because she’s not Aryan, and there are so many other moving pieces that she’s dealing with. She’s trying to get false papers, so she’s spending money in other ways. There’s so much restriction in her real life that others don’t know about. She’s trying to look normal as possible and trying to blend in, while taking care of what really matters. Of course, she’s doing her hair every day and she’s putting on a nice blouse as best she can. She’s making sure she looks clean and fed given the circumstances. It’s all these things and, as she goes on, we see Halina become a ghost of herself, whether that be in health, appearance, hair or clothes.

Joey, you mentioned how stepping into costume helped you. How did that completed look with hair and makeup help you tap into Halina?

KING: It was so helpful because you start prepping for something and you’re doing as much prep as you can, but you haven’t seen what you look like. I went to Romania and we knew we were going to be dyeing my hair lighter and my eyebrows and that was quite a change. There are different versions of Halina and she’s ever evolving. But each piece it’s so interesting because the clothes help you get there and they help you stay there and you can evolve with them. She thinks she’s looking cute with the beat field outfit and then this beautiful gray, all of a sudden, becomes somber gray. It’s such a beautiful outfit, and then it becomes this outfit that symbolizes something horrible to me.

We Were the Lucky Ones -- Season 1 -- Based on Georgia Hunter’s New York Times bestselling novel, the television adaptation of “We Were the Lucky Ones” is a limited series inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive and reunite. “We Were the Lucky Ones” demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can endure and even thrive. The series is a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds. Halina (Joey King) and Addy (Logan Lerman), shown. (Courtesy of Hulu)
Coats were a staple of Halina’s wardrobe.

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