Hailing from Cebu, Clint Ramos was exposed to political street theater during his high school years, which awoke a creativity and hunger for a life in the arts.
From the moment you land on Clint Ramos’ professional website (www.clintramos.com), it’s clear this Tony-winning, Philippines-born, openly gay multi-hyphenate includes “social justice activist” front and center in his list of designations.
“BLACK LIVES MATTER,” the welcome page announces. “Clint Ramos Design believes in equity and the dismantling of racism, anti-blackness and white supremacy through art and love.”
Advocating and being part of the change needed for an equitable landscape in theatre and film for black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), the NYC-based Ramos, the first person of color to win the Tony Award for Costume Design, for Broadway’s Eclipsed, has certainly worked on productions that advance the needle. Most recently, he served as costume designer for the highly anticipated Aretha Franklin bopic, Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson as the iconic, politically active singer; as costume and production designer of director Isabel Sandoval’s 2019 Netflix movie Lingua Franca, about an undocumented transgender Filipina immigrant working in NYC; and out, Black playwright Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play, which made history in 2020 for receiving the most Tony nominations for a non-musical to date, including one for Ramos (Best Scenic Design).
Hailing from Cebu, Ramos was exposed to political street theater during his high school years, which awoke a creativity and hunger for a life in the arts. Feeling like an outcast due to both his queerness and being an overweight youth, he later found a sense of belonging in NYC at age 20, where he attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a full Gary Kalkin Memorial Scholarship. From there, Ramos carved out a career in both costume design and scenic design, earning Tony, Obie, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel and other coveted theater world awards and, including on two occasions, his homeland’s Ani ng Dangal Presidential Medal for dramatic arts from the President of the Philippines.
His credits number in the hundreds, and include 2010’s Angels In America revival with Billy Porter, the 2015 London run of The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper, and 2020’s The Rose Tattoo, which earned Ramos a second Tony nomination that year (for Costume Design). Although Broadway went dark in March 2020, Ramos kept very busy regardless. He taught remotely for Fordham University’s Theatre Department from his second home in Massachusetts’ Berkshires, where attorney husband Jason Moff and their four-yearold daughter absconded during the pandemic. While there, he worked on stage and film preproduction, and dug even deeper into social justice action, particularly when a wave of anti- AAPI violence gripped the USA.
Taking a time out with PASSPORT via Zoom, Ramos shared some of his diverse career highlights and markers, dream projects, activism, happy places, and a Billy Porter anecdote.
How did you end up juggling these related yet separate careers as costume and scenic/ production designer?
It’s a lot of scheduling and big picture thinking. I went to school for both of them, but earlier on I would only be hired for costume design. That led to relationships with directors who asked me to do both, and eventually I ended up doing either or. Then it led to film. One thing led to the other and I followed where the wind blew me. Also, a lot of taking stock of where I was and what was important to me. I feel that for a lot of people, especially artists, there’s a trajectory we follow. To me it didn’t feel linear at all. When I look back at my career I feel there were so many dark splotches and bumps and doubts, being unsure if this was right for me.”
What do you consider your career breakthrough?
I can’t pinpoint one thing, but there are a few markers. One of them was when I did Here Lies Love at the Public Theater in 2013 with David Byrne, which was the Imelda Marcos musical. It solidified a feeling inside that I’d made the right choices in life. I came to it from a very personal place, but also it was extremely artistically satisfying. Eclipsed was a big marker, and I also worked on a small 2013 production of Good Person of Szechwan with Taylor Mac at Foundry Theater and that led to collaborations with Encores! NY City Center. Now, I’m actually the Encores! Creative Producing Director.