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Emmys: Limited Series Makeup Artisans Honor History on the Small Screen

To create infamous cult leaders (“American Horror Story: Cult”), a legendary painter (“Genius: Picasso”), a world-renowned designer (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”) and the alter-egos of 1930s Hollywood (“The Last Tycoon”) — not to mention the return of one of the most beloved characters in television (Kyle MacLachlan’s FBI agent Dale Cooper in “Twin Peaks”) — the challenges in non-prosthetic makeup were equal parts honoring history and creating a legacy.

American Horror Story Cult
CREDIT: Courtesy of FX

American Horror Story: Cult
FX
Eryn Krueger Mekash is often asked why “American Horror Story: Cult” used real footage of Marshall Applewhite when they recreated all other famous cult leaders. “We didn’t,” she says. “That’s Evan [Peters] in makeup. When you fool an audience like that, it’s very rewarding.” Especially when on a tight schedule: Mekash and her team are used to having just 24 hours to prep. On “Cult,” the challenge was being historically accurate while still respectful to the real-life victims. “With the Manson murders, we were selective about how much [gore] we did just out of respect for Sharon Tate and her family. That didn’t need to be gratuitous. Everybody knows what happens,” she says.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace American Crime Story-BTS
CREDIT: Courtesy of FX

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
FX
The crowning achievement for Eryn Krueger Mekash and her team was turning Edgar Ramirez into the legendary, titular designer. “To make him look even more like Gianni, his lip shape was changed, his nose shape was changed, and that was all done with highlight and shadow,” she says. While the pressure of recreating some of the most iconic figures of the ’90s was a challenge, some tasks were lighterhearted than others. “Robyn Beauchesne, who was the department head with me, covered all of Ricky Martin’s tattoos. He had tons of them and he was always shirtless or in a Speedo, so we all pitched in,” laughs Mekash. “That was really fun.”

Genius Picasso
CREDIT: National Geographic/Dusan Martin

Genius: Picasso
National Geographic
To turn Antonio Banderas into the legendary Pablo Picasso, Davina Lamont and her team started with a blank canvas. “Right off the bat, Antonio said, ‘I’m willing to shave my hair,’” she says. “The eyebrows took a little bit of convincing.” Thankfully Banderas was not alone in his sacrifice: Alex Rich, who portrayed younger Picasso, and Samantha Cully, who played photographer Dora Maar, also shaved their eyebrows for authenticity. Fortunately for Lamont, hairless Banderas shared many of Picasso’s physical traits, leaving her to focus first and foremost on aging the actor. “Up until Picasso’s mid-50s, all Antonio had was a nose prosthetic, and then we started adding a cheek piece, the little folds and another cheek piece that would age him even more. In the final stages we added the neck waddle,” she explains of taking Picasso from age 44 to 92. “Throughout the whole series, Antonio kept asking me, ‘Davina! My eyebrows are gonna grow back, right?’ And I was thinking, ‘I hope you are not one of these actors where they don’t.’”

TLT_Ep108_0589.RAF
CREDIT: Adam Rose

The Last Tycoon
Amazon
Period authenticity can prove difficult with modern camera technology. In recreating 1930s Hollywood, Lana Horochowski and her team decided to go all in. “We had to let go of the fact that the cameras were going to see the makeup,” says Horochowski. “You just hope that the audience can understand that and instead of thinking, ‘Wow. That makeup artist was really heavy handed,’ they think, ‘Oh right, the makeup was super thick back then.’” One of the greater challenges for Horochowski was convincing the actresses on the show to give up their modern-day eyebrows for the thin lines of the time. Another was a scene with 200 extras. “Our biggest scene was the Oscars and those scenes were epic,” says Horochowski. “The camera pans across the audience so many times that every single person had to be perfectly done. We hired an army.”

RANCHO ROSA Twin Peaks BTS
CREDIT: Suzanne Tenner

Twin Peaks
Showtime
Despite working with David Lynch for more than two decades, “Twin Peaks” was an entirely unique experience for Debbie Zoller and her makeup team. “I wasn’t allowed to have a script, so I had to take very cryptic notes that no one else could understand, if God forbid they were found,” recalls Zoller. She memorized every script, keeping track of more than 200 characters in her head. “If I couldn’t remember a character, I would go to a production office on set that had a safe. Only one person had the key. I would get out the script, look up the notes and they would put it back behind lock and key again.” As if the secrecy wasn’t stressful enough, Zoller then had to create three different characters for actor Kyle MacLachlan. “We did Agent Cooper first, starting from what everybody recognized. Then, in taking him to his evil doppelganger and Dougie, you really had to figure out how to go from light to dark, while making him believable. You don’t want it to look over the top,” she says. “When we’re working on it, the first and foremost thing is that I didn’t want to interpret David’s work. I just wanted to give him exactly what he was asking for. And that’s not easy.”

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