How ‘American Horror Story’ Makeup Artist Christien Tinsley Creates the Chilling Looks

Christien Tinsley American Horror Story Makeup

“American Horror Story” needs more than your run-of-the-mill makeup job.

With characters like a Minotaur, a serial killer that uses the skin of its victims for a mask, and a decapitated Kathy Bates, the FX drama needs a professional touch to bring those characters to life.

Enter Christien Tinsley, the makeup artist responsible for “AHS’” creepiest looks. Along with prosthetic designer Jason Hamer and Mike Mekash, plus makeup effects artists Eryn Krueger Mekash, Christopher Nelson, David L. Anderson, Cristina Patterson and Rob Freitas, he was nominated for an Emmy for prosthetic makeup for a series, miniseries, movie or special. It’s the third nomination he’s received for his work on “AHS.”

Though working on a show with such unique character designs may seem like a dream come true for a makeup designer, Tinsley says he and his crew faced time constraints, often getting the script a week before the episode started shooting. “We were extremely restricted by the schedule,” he says.

Yet they managed to make some lasting impressions: including the decapitated head of Bates’ character. In order to create it, they had to take an impression of Bates’ head, make a clay duplicate, sculpt detail and weight into it, make a rubber mold, and punch in all of the hair one by one.

“You can just imagine the intense amount of hours it takes to really do that correctly.”

He also got to play a bit of Dr. Frankenstein. In “Coven,” Evan Peters’ character’s body was mangled in a bus crash and was brought back to life with magic and a bit of creative stitching by the resident witches.

“Ryan (Murphy) pitched the idea, and I was like, ‘Yes! We’re going to make Frankenstein!’” he says. “We came up with this really nice pattern that was believable. I think ultimately, the finished makeup worked really well.”

For Tinsley, creating characters is what it’s all about. “The actors try to create an arc with their character,” he says. “Makeup is there to enhance that idea. That’s what we do. And sometimes with makeup effects, you’re building who that character becomes. And who they are is the way they look.”

“Coven” marks his last “AHS” season — he’s moving on to work on “Westworld,” the HBO sci-fi pilot.

“I’ve done, I think, a pretty damn good job at creating a look and a style for that show when it comes to the makeup effects,” he says.

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