What was your design process like on Bridgerton?
I always begin a project by reading the script a few times over, trying to get to know the characters and how I can convey their personalities through their hair and makeup. Once I’ve read the script, then alongside my research of books and paintings of the time and my knowledge of history, I start to formulate my ideas of how I can reflect their personalities through the hair and makeup. I then put these ideas to the actors in their initial fittings. I was lucky with Bridgerton that all the actors loved my ideas. So, once we received approval from the producers, we were good to go.
Where did you draw inspiration from in terms of makeup and hair?
Most of my inspiration comes from the usual books and paintings of the period, but I also have a good knowledge of history, and also spent my formative years watching old black and white movies and musicals of the golden era of Hollywood. People say that I have the memory of an Elephant; it’s all kept in those little grey cells in my brain ready for a new production. For example, Daphne’s look was based on Audrey Hepburn from the film War and Peace. On her first meeting with me, her eyebrows, with her hair taken up tightly reminded me of Audrey Hepburn in this film. I then adapted it to what I felt was right for Daphne. War and Peace was made in the 1950s but again the story was set in the Regency period so her makeup had to have that no makeup look, but still leaving her soft, dewy and stunning.
You come from a theater background and this show has a very theatrical feel to it. Did your history working in stage help or hinder your process with this project?
I began my career in 1988, after graduating from The London College of Fashion. I landed a job on Chess, the musical, in London’s West End, by pure chance, and continued working in theatre for the next 15 years until I was asked to do some TV. I always tell trainees to know their history, it is vital to have this knowledge to be a period hairdresser. When designing Bridgerton, this knowledge helped in designing the more Avant Garde looks, especially the Cowpers and Queen Charlotte.
The show has a pretty clear line of delineation between characters from different societal classes. How do you reflect those differences in makeup design in particular?
To be honest, we didn’t really have any poor people in Bridgerton, even our maids were over the top. When I saw the first maid fittings, the costume was so pretty, made of silk candy stripes and beautifully pleated aprons and caps, I thought there’s no way I’m going to give her a simple bun.
What is the biggest challenge when you are designing both makeup and hair?
I have been asked what challenges there were in every interview I’ve done, and my reply is none. I chose my team from colleagues that I have worked with many times before. They are all very experienced in the aspect of the job I give them, it’s what they do.
The casting for Bridgerton was beautifully diverse, especially for a period piece like this. Did you approach the design in any different way because of this?
I was so happy with the diverse casting of Bridgerton. The fact that there are very few images of wealthy people of African descent from this period meant a massive scope to create something new for them; a designers dream. So, with characters like Queen Charlotte, I kept to the same silhouettes of the period but adding locks, braids and textured hair to celebrate her ethnicity.
The show has a big cast and a lot of background actors, how’d you manage that? How large was your team?
Our cast I think was over 120, which is huge. This meant I was constantly fitting and designing as I went along. I had eight full-time members on contract on the truck but there were also a regular four extra to stand by on set. With all the Balls and parties we filmed, it meant huge crowd days. I had a core team of seven people, on top of this, we had many dailies ranging from 20-60 people on our massive days.
Anything special you can share about the makeup for the male characters?
For hair, our men were all blow-dried then tonged and styled into shape. In terms of makeup, it was fashion for men to wear makeup in Regency London. I like to use Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. It’s nice and light and gives a beautiful finish. Men wore rouge in this time as well, so I used Stila blush sticks to achieve this.
There were quite a lot of intimate scenes, any special needs there from a makeup standpoint?
The intimate scenes are always tricky to film, as we like to give the actors as much space as we can. And, as they are naked, there are always things to cover: tattoos, blemishes, tan lines, etc.
Any must-have products on set you can share?
The essential items I always have in my kit are L’Oreal Techni Pli, L’Oreal Elnett and a tube of Vitapointe conditioning cream, I have used them all my career and they never let me down. My other go-to products are all HASK hair products. Their full-range are so good and being paraben and sulfate-free, they are kind to the planet too. My musthaves makeup-wise are palettes: Kryolan Grease Palettes, my Maquillage Palette and my Skin Illustrator Palettes. These will get you through any sudden change or crisis.
Words Shannon Levy
Photos Courtesy Netflix