Creative Arts Emmy Contenders for Hair and Makeup Change Faces to Serve the Story

Altered appearances help make these shows convincing and compelling

All the Way HBO Creative Arts Emmys
Courtesy of HBO

Whether a show takes you into a kitschy horror universe or on a journey through the most controversial and tragic parts of American history, hair and makeup teams must fashion the masks actors use to take us on the journey. This year that often meant delving deep into realistic looks or striking an exaggerated pose.

“Roots,” shown on History, HBO’s “All the Way,” Cinemax’s “The Knick” and PBS’ “Mercy Street” each take us to a real place that has been documented. The inspiration started there.

“We shaved [Bryan Cranston’s] hair every day because he has a great head of hair but (President) Lyndon Johnson’s hair was thinning and he had a bald spot, and that’s a big part of the look of LBJ,” says Anne Morgan, hair department head for “All the Way.”

Men’s hair was also a consideration on “Mercy Street” and “The Knick.” The era of both shows demanded certain looks; facial hair in particular held a lot of meaning.

“You’re better off if an actor can grow his own beard because of HD, which can show lots of flaws,” says Ashley Fetterman, makeup head for “Mercy Street.”

With Bravo’s “Odd Mom Out,” Fox’s “Last Man on Earth,” USA’s “Mr. Robot,” Starz’s “Ash vs. Evil Dead” and FX’s “American Horror Story: Hotel,” different worlds use elements of realism but exaggerate or intensify their looks. The latter two pull furthest away from what you might see on the street.

“We were having a bit of fun with it because it’s based on horror films from the 1980s,” says Jane O’Kane, makeup designer on “Ash.” “We pushed it with blood because that was expected.”

Other makeup artists reached for new versions of familiar, if unreal, characters. “With Lady Gaga, we wanted a version of old Hollywood glamour but a new take on a vampire,” says Eryn Krueger Mekash, makeup department head for “Hotel.” “Her eyebrows were bleached out and that make her look otherworldly.”

Pictured above: Bryan Cranston as LBJ in “All the Way”