Although Netflix’s seven-episode limited series “Hollywood” took an alternate history approach to the types of movies being made — and the people allowed to make them — in its plot, nuances and visual details in the story had to pull directly from the reality of the post-World War II era. This included everything from production design and costumes to hair and makeup.
“I wanted it to be very much straight down the line, stereotypical, everything that happened and how it looked — because we also want to play into the fact that this should have been how it was,” says Eryn Krueger Mekash, makeup department head, “Hollywood.” (She is now nominated in the non-prosthetic period/character makeup category at the 72nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards.)
This attitude was especially important for supporting limited series/TV movie actress nominee Holland Taylor’s Ellen Kincaid, an industry executive who in the real-world 1940s may have been “a very smart woman behind the man” but experienced more outright power in this aspirational story.
“Holland’s character was based on women of the time — and they dressed to the nines, they were completely polished to a T,” Mekash says. “Somebody said to me once, ‘Everybody wore red lipstick in Hollywood.’ And that was the color. Everyone wore red, even as a very casual look, because it represented optimism post-World War II. Holland likes a little bit of a pink-based red lipstick, so we went with that.”
“Hollywood” follows Taylor’s Ellen both when she is working at the studio, rubbing elbows and making deals with everyone from up-and-comers to the top brass, as well as when she is at home and therefore should be more casual. But Taylor notes that she was never truly “in a situation where she wouldn’t have been put-together,” in great part because at the time women often went to great lengths to look polished for the loved ones with whom they lived.
In fact, there was only one scene in which she considers her makeup to be “taken down a bit” — and even then her hair was still perfectly coiffed. It was a scene in which Ellen comes out of the bathroom to a waiting paramour. “He thinks I’m going to come back to bed and I think we’re going to go out,” she says, adding she ad libbed, “Do you think my hair does itself?” in that moment “because it’s a great laugh line but you absolutely mean it.”
Both women say they used photos of family members as references to capture the authentic makeup style and color palette of the period. “My nana — she wasn’t a celebrity or anything — said, ‘We didn’t have any money, we shared a lipstick, but I always had my lips on.’ I’ll never forget that. She worked labor and she always had her lips on,” Mekash says.
Adds Taylor: “It was a simpler time and you can’t fudge it for a modern look, you’ll ruin it. They didn’t wear a ton of makeup in those days. It’s not like today when we’re at the height of capitalism and there are thousands of largely useless makeup products. You needed concealer, an eyebrow pencil, mascara and a lip. You have to be very, very precise with it, and Eryn was, and I never doubted how I would look when I walked on camera.”