How did you come to work on The Eyes of Tammy Faye?
Jessica Chastain asked for me — we have collaborated on 15 projects and I feel very fortunate that we do so well together. She always chooses such interesting characters to play, and from my perspective, that allows me to be constantly challenged as an artist.
What sort of research did you do?
One of the first things I did was watch The Eyes of Tammy Faye documentary. I also pulled from TV interviews, vintage magazines, vintage photos, and albums from eBay — the album covers were particularly useful, as they provided period color reference and showed how Jim and Tammy looked during specific years of their life. I created boards with images for each of them in the time periods we were featuring so we always had a quick reference. I had binders filled with images from the decades we were working that were helpful for the makeup team to reference for other casts and background performers alike. I collected original images from PTL and watched segments from the show, not only for the Jim and Tammy elements, but for the looks of the guests, audience members, people that manned the phone lines and the backup singers, for example.
What were the keys to transforming Jessica Chastain into Tammy Faye Bakker?
There were basically two key elements in creating our characters — the beauty side of things which I will speak to, and the prosthetic elements. It was important to me that we never lost sight of the beauty aspect of Tammy’s makeup. Her look was large in real life, and combined with prosthetics I
was aware of the risk of crossing a very fine line between being authentic and going over the top. The way Tammy presented herself was important to her and she took great care with her look; this was the Tammy that needed to be reflected through her beauty makeup. I left the coloring of the prosthetics pieces to the prosthetics team, covering off her basic foundation element. I covered off brows, lips, cheeks, eyes, and nails. In the case of both Tammy and Jim, I asked the prosthetic team to use a more “bumped up”
foundation color on the pieces when we were doing TV scenes — the TV makeup from some of the years we featured had a particular look and feel, and I wanted to see that differentiation. For Andrew Garfield, I had several differents ideburns made to authentically reflect Jim’s look for the periods.
The costume is such an important element and I loved working with Mitchell Travers, our Costume Designer. Tammy Faye was a very matchy-matchy person when it came to coordinating her clothes with her makeup and nails.
The last, and very important piece of the equation is that without an actor’s complete willingness to go there, and without the fullest of collaborations, it would be incredibly difficult to achieve an authentic transformation. Jessica is a wonderful contributor to the process and there is a definite
sharing of ideas between all of us. Without that passion to achieve the highest level of work from each of us, I believe the transformation would suffer.
How did you create Tammy Faye’s iconic eyelashes?
Obviously, the eyes were her strongest feature. It definitely took some doing to get the right lashes. I had bought many styles, and had some hand-made, looking to not only achieve the right look but to find ways that we could cut back on application time. With the exception of the very early years, we individually applied lashes each day to enhance Jess’s own dyed lashes and used multiple applications of L’Oreal Voluminous mascara. Tammy Faye actually used the L’Oreal Lash Out which has been discontinued since 2012 I believe. We opted to use the L’Oreal Voluminous mascara because it felt the closest in texture and volume to the Lash Out, which I was familiar
We also sometimes reused some of the removed lashes so that we had an authentic buildup of mascara — the real Tammy never removed them at night, she just replaced what fell off at any given time. For the early years, the lashes appeared very separated and spiky, and for these, I took a favorite lash we used, and cut out two of every three lashes from the strip to create that separation and style.
How did her makeup change over the years?
Tammy loved color; pinks and pink reds for lips, cheeks, and nails. In the later years, we saw her with some stronger color influences in the red range for lips and burgundy, reds and purples for nails. In those same later years, Tammy had her brows drawn in and eyes and lips lined with tattoo color. For the tattoo effect, I used a stencil and waterproof pencil for the brows to maintain the integrity of the look and period and used a black waterproof pencil for the eyeliner and a very strong plum/burgundy waterproof pencil for the lip liner. We wanted something that would stay but wanted to stay clear of alcohol-based products. For the nails, I opted to have multiple sets of press-on nails on hand, all painted with our chosen colors. Multiple sets in multiple colors and pretaped so that it was a quick and easy press-on.
Any must-have products on set?
Aside from the L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara, I’d add Ardell lashes, “old school’’ drug store brand quads from Revlon, L’Oreal and some others, and Kiss press-on nails.
Words Shannon Levy
Photos courtesy of Searchlight Pictures