Cleverman character design

Australia, 2016-2017

Courtesy Goalpost Pictures

Object On display

No matter the country or language spoken, stories of the “hairy man” are told by countless First Nations peoples across Australia. These stories were used as the basis for the visionary dystopian sci-fi show Cleverman, which reimagined the Hairy people (known as ‘Hairies’ in the show) as heroes harassed and hunted by the government.   

Concept creator Ryan Griffen and production designer Jacob Nash worked with Weta Workshop to transform their actors into these extraordinary characters. They sketched concepts to establish a visual style, and these sketches were then used to create costumes, wigs and prosthetics.   

The results are some of the most iconic characters to appear on an Australian TV show, which was already groundbreaking for exploring Aboriginal origin stories in a contemporary context while examining class, racism and power.

Curator Notes

"The design of the Bindawu (also known as the Hairy People) began with a conversation with series creator Ryan Griffen. He talked about what he wanted to create and began with the stories from a known place, some of his personal experiences of being on Country. From there we discussed, "how do we take these experiences and creatures from our culture and convey them in a genre-based TV show, that would be broadcast around the world"?

At this point we were joined by Weta Workshop and they became our key collaborators in designing the Bindawu. Richard Taylor’s designers at Weta began the process of visually describing what the Bindawu would look like, by creating hundreds of creature designs which they would send to both Ryan and I. This left us to look through all these renderings and let Weta know what was working with each and how to move forward in the design process. Once we had found a visual language and hero designs for our Bindawu, Kath Brown and her hair and makeup team were brought into the conversation. It was another step in the conversation towards what the Hairies would look like. Kath’s job was to take the designs that we had created and transform them into wearable costumes, which she did beautifully by hand, over many weeks, knotting individual strands of hair into costumes. At this point the actors were brought in for fittings, the designs were refined and shaped to the body and ready for the screen." – Jacob Nash

Creator/Producer Ryan Griffen on the Origins of Cleverman via Screen Australia's YouTube channel

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Not in ACMI's collection

On display until

10 November 2024

ACMI: Gallery 1



Ryan Griffen

production company

Goalpost Pictures

production designer

Jacob Nash

Production places
Production dates

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ACMI Identifier

Curatorial section

The Story of the Moving Image → Moving Worlds → MW-05. Character Design → MW-05-C01


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