How did you come to work on The Handmaid’s Tale?
I heard The Handmaid’s Tale was going to be shooting in Toronto late summer/fall. I was working on the Stephen Spielberg produced show, American Gothic, at the time. I
contacted The Handmaid’s Tale production office and requested a script. Once I read the fantastic script, I realized that I needed to be part of it! I talked to the Production
Manager — we worked together on a show about a year before and had a great rapport. He thought I would be a perfect fit for the show and Elisabeth Moss, in particular, and
said she would be in touch.
Soon after she phoned me, we chatted about what ideas I had for the show and her character, Offred/June, for Gilead and flashbacks. I phoned the PM the next day to see when he wanted me to come in for an interview. He said, no need Lizzie loved what you had to say and the job is yours. Amazing!
Where did you draw your inspiration for creating the makeup for the women in Gilead?
I was so taken aback with the script and the rawness of the story that I knew the makeup had to look real. I didn’t want the viewers to be distracted by overdone faces. In the beginning, there were a few people behind the scenes that were uneasy by how badly the women looked on camera. But I knew I had to keep making the same makeup choices for the characters in order for the show to visually look right.
The June/Offred character’s look has evolved from Season one to season three as she’s become more worn down by life in Gilead. How do you help tell her story with the makeup?
Elisabeth Moss’s character in Gilead had to look distressed and broken down, with dark circles under her eyes to paler skin tones to being battered and bruised. In the beginning, her makeup is more natural. As her circumstances get worse with each season, her makeup reflects that with an even more distressed look. When she is crying or emotional that has to reflect in the makeup from scene to scene for continuity. I create wetness under the eyes with Egyptian Magic and use a red pencil in her waterline.
How do you differentiate her Offred makeup vs. June makeup in flashbacks?
June’s flashback makeup is soft, pretty and natural with a warm foundation giving her a slight glow, mascara, eyebrows filled in and rosy cheek/lip tints. Her Gilead look is a paler sallow foundation, with dark undereye circles.
What was the process like for creating the makeup in Season two for the women in the Colonies?
We had camera tests for the Colonies makeup looks months before we shot those episodes which was great since there were different levels and variations of broken down and distressed looks. Women who had just arrived or who had been there for awhile would obviously have different degrees of the look, while working in the toxic waste. They are also working in harsh outdoor elements so that had to reflect in
the makeup with wind and sunburnt looks. We used dirt, grime, tooth decay, illustrator palettes, and transfers and prosthetics for the more severe looks.
What is your trick for keeping the makeup looking so real?
The trick for keeping the makeup real is having camera tests when possible for any new makeups. Then doing what I feel works in the makeup trailer and always last minute
adjustments when the performers are on camera.
How important is the men’s grooming/makeup?
Men’s grooming is also extremely important on the show. We’ve got our two major players, Commander Waterford and Commander Lawrence with beards and many other day players with some facial hair. To show the character more worn down and stressed out, I would leave beards disheveled and not trimmed, as in Commander Waterford in
season three. Otherwise, the men may get a light makeup to cover any major redness, but we keep it super light and real. A little bit of shine for dimension is great.
Serena and June/Offred represent opposites sides of this dystopian society. How is that established with Serena’s makeup?
Serena’s makeup is clean. She has access to skin care so a nice simple clean finish to her skin. Her look is created with a natural shade of foundation, slightly rosy cheeks, defined eyebrow and Burt’s Bees pomegranate lip balm.
What are your must-have products on the set of this show?
Must have products would be a red pencil for eyes for emotional crying scenes. Blotting papers for removing too much shine so we don’t have to add powder. Illustrator palettes in blood tones are a must. Egyptian magic for wetness and added dimension for camera when needed.
Words Shannon Levy
Photos George Kraychyk, Sabrina Lantos, Sophie Giraud, Elly Dassas/Hulu