ON SET: Amy L. Forsythe + Russian Doll

How did you get your start in makeup?
I went to college for theater at Florida State, and during my senior year a man came down from Broadway to show me how to do beards and quick wig changes. That is when I realized how much more fun it would be to help create the world with other creatives than just bringing one character to life. I graduated, went to hair school where I learned weave, braids, and minimal wigs, then went to Los Angeles to learn character and prosthetic makeup. Growing up a book worm, I was always kind of let down by the movie versions of books. But now I get it. What a challenge to be tasked with bringing a world to life and hoping people like it.

You also Department Head Stranger Things. Was there any overlap in shooting schedules?
From the get-go, I told them I might have to leave at the end for the third season of Stranger Things. I pitched my key, Heidi Pakdel, to take over if that were the case. Natasha Lyonne was fine with it so long as everything was designed, prepped, and ready to go.

What was the makeup inspiration for Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) in Russian Doll?
We knew we were going for a grungy, messy kind of smoky eye with her character. I pulled some smoky favorites of Natasha from events that she and I both liked and played with it for a little bit. I made a modern day Debbie Harry funky shape for her eyes that we were happy with once her hair and costumes were involved. Some of her costumes came up high on her neck, and her hair framed her face so much, that getting the right makeup was tricky because you barely see her face. We didn’t want to do too much or too little, but I feel like we came to a really good place.

What is the prep process like for a series that takes place in the same day, more or less?
We did a makeup test beforehand for Nadia with camera and costumes. It’s a collaboration with Natasha — as

makeup designer, it’s a luxury to have the person who wrote it, producing it and starring in it, sitting in your chair. Nadia is emotionally kind of all over the place so I didn’t mind bouncing around back and forth with her eyes and lips because it was more about Nadia’s mental state than staying 100% true to continuity. It’s a made up world, and so long as it’s not distracting, I welcome those tiny nuances. The rest of the characters we tested either the day before in the trailer or just established them on the day of. We put up all the cast photos next to my station as we establish them to make sure everything vibes together. This show was exciting to see the progress as we filmed, and stepping back at the end, seeing all the characters and how the show came together.

Max’s (Greta Lee) geometric eye makeup is so fun. What inspired that?
First and foremost, her costume inspired me to take her to a different level. I wanted to do something very simple but graphic with her eyes. Heidi and I played with different colors, and simplified a high fashion graphic I was inspired by, until the design fit Max’s face more. Heidi had her liquids out, and I saw this electric blue, we knew immediately that was the one — adding a little dash of teal pressed in the corner of her eye and a black dot underneath. We were ready to take off the dot on set if it was distracting. The finishing touch was her nails where we had used a burnt orange that complimented the color of her shirt, and dots and line details to match the graphic nature of her eyes.

How large was your makeup team?
It was just me and Heidi for the most part, and day players came in for extras. Heidi started doing Natasha’s makeup for a couple weeks, before I left for Stranger Things, so she could get to know her face. Her key, Danielle Minnella, came in during that time period and we showed Danielle how to do the homeless character’s beard and tattoos.

What was your biggest challenge on this show?
Horse, the homeless character, was a fun challenge. The actor showed up clean-shaven the day before being established — misunderstanding from a photo he was sent from another department. So, finding that lace beard and modifying it to fit the choppy look I wanted for the character was no big deal with Amanda Miller letting us stop by her studio at the last minute. That, along with the hobo symbol tattoos all over him, really was a fun one. After everything is said and done, I think he looked better with the texture and color of the fake beard than the one he had just shaved off. Other than that, there was a trio of guys who show up multiple times throughout the season whom we changed a lot — mustaches, beards, uni-brows, good times.

Russian Doll trailer must-haves?
Koh Gen Do cleansing water and illuminator, Lancôme lip and brow pencils, Anastasia contour palettes, Kevyn Aucoin lip pencils and sculpting powder, YSL Touche Eclat, Colorescience corrector palette, Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer, Kate Somerville True Lash eye makeup remover.

Words Shannon Levy
Photos Daniel McFadden/Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures