Wilkes County native Zachary Sheets was recently nominated for an Emmy Award for his costume work on the HBO series “Lovecraft Country.”

Sheets, 37, was the show’s costume supervisor and was one of five nominees for outstanding fantasy/sci-fi costumes. It’s the first Emmy nod for the Wilkesboro native and current resident of Cincinnati.

The 2021 Emmy winners will be announced on Sept. 19 during the television award show’s broadcast on CBS.

A graduate of Moravian Falls Elementary, Woodward Middle and Wilkes Central High schools, Zach is the son of Rick and Debbie Sheets of Wilkesboro. His sister and her family also live in Wilkes.

Sheets told me in a recent interview that he worked in the food service industry until he found costumes.

“I started out at the ol’ Applebee’s (in Wilkesboro) during high school, and multiple other restaurants and bars through my 20s,” he said. “I won a free trip to the Marlboro Ranch (in Clyde Park, Mont.) in my early 20s. While I was there with my cousin, Dawn Mathis, I talked the bar staff into hiring me as a bartender. I worked at the ranch for a couple of seasons and moved around Montana and ended up in Billings.”

Sheets was doing various odd jobs at a Billings theatre when another person’s misfortune led to his big break.

“One day, an older lady, who was the costume designer for a play, fell and hurt herself. She couldn’t finish. So, I, with my ‘I’ll figure it out’ brain, was like, ‘I can do that.’

“It was a 1940s youth show. I figured it out, and really enjoyed myself. The sewing, the actors, the theatre—all of it. I got some compliments from donors, and other folks in the theater community there.”

Sheets ended up costume designing lots of shows in Billings, including “Tommy,” “Sweeney Todd,” “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” and “Into the Woods.” He then decided to enroll in school for theatre costume design.

“I was 28, 10 years past ‘college prime,’ and all my friends and colleagues suggested the College Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati,” he said.

So Sheets moved from Billings back to Wilkes in 2012 for a short time before enrolling at CCM and moving to Cincinnati.

“When I started school, I felt really old,” he admitted. “I was one of two students who got into the costume design program, the second student was 18 and my mentor was 10 years younger than me.

“But, everything I was learning, I felt like I already knew, having designed and sewn or built hundreds of period garments for theatre for the last few years.”

Sheets was forced to drop out of CCM because his schedule there didn’t allow him to keep a job and pay the bills.

But that same week in 2014 he was hired as costume assistant for a movie filming in Cincinnati, “Miles Ahead” starring Don Cheadle and Ewan McGregor.

“I organized shopping, shopped, and eventually made my way to set,” he recalled. “I was able to dress some extras. The costume designer liked what I was doing, so I got to be on set more.”

After getting the proverbial foot in the door, more costuming gigs came to Sheets, who found himself in high demand and saying goodbye to the food industry.

Read more about Sheets’ journey to the horror drama “Lovecraft Country” in the second part of this interview, in the Aug. 11 edition of Wilkes Journal-Patriot.

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