ON SET LINDA DOWDS + THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE

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 different
sideburns 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
with.

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