How did you come to work on Hillbilly Elegy?
A wonderful producer I worked for on My Sister’s Keeper called me and asked if I was available. My pal Patrica Dehaney and Amy Adam’s makeup artist Kate Biscoe put together a shortlist of people they thought would be good for the film, and I was chosen for the project. Very exciting!
The story revolves around a family who don’t necessarily take great care of themselves physically, Mamaw is a heavy smoker, Bev is a drug user, they are poor and presumably don’t eat healthily. How do you reflect their lifestyle through makeup design?
I knew that skin texture plays a part in reflecting lifestyle. Matthew Mungle created the prosthetics and did the initial test on Glenn so I had a template. After our makeup tests with cameras and lighting I knew I needed to pump up the details. Matthew liked what I did with Glenn and I adjusted as each lighting scenario changed. Mamaw was in the sun and was a smoker and a high stress lifestyle. Patty and I made sure we could see that; the rest was Glenn’s amazing performance.
Amy has beautiful skin with fine pores (and so does Glenn). I worked with Dave Anderson of AFX to create two prosthetics for the end of Amy’s nose. Her earlier look was added ruddiness, overly tan, chunky mascara undone eyeliner and eyeshadow and an undefined lip. When Bev is older I did a stretch and stipple age makeup with heavier sun damage, dark circles, lined mouth, neck, and an overall broken down. I didn’t want it to be a distraction for the wonderful acting.
Are there challenges specific to recreating real people, as opposed to fictional characters?
I always want to homage the real person. I want the actor to step into the character to make them feel like they see something if the real person. I want it to be respectful to the family. Nothing that is distracting.
It’s important in every project to work closely with the hair and wardrobe teams but in this project, it seems like the characters truly came to life through the collaboration of these creative teams. What is the design process like working with the rest of the creative team?
Patti and I worked closely to create the characters for the whole scope of the show. I was the last of the team to be hired and immediately received a book Virginia Johnson made to show what the inspiration for each era, all the family members and locations so I could get into the groove quickly. The costume designer is usually on board earliest so she has access to production design, color swatches and tones. It’s a total team effort!
The prosthetics work on Glenn Close as Mamaw was incredibly subtle yet completely transformative. What is the process of creation and application like for the prosthetics on the project?
Matthew made beautiful pieces so it’s starts there! Super Baldiez encapsulated silicone nose as well as gelatin ears. He sent them to me with the test photos and the makeup and hair test was the first time I applied them with Jamie Hess who was my Assistant Department Head. For timing, Jamie applied Glenn’s right ear and painted her hands for me and I applied the left and nose and painted her face. We were on a very tight schedule since I also did Amy’s prosthetics and makeup, Patti and I figured out a way to do it simultaneously. We needed to have the makeup and hair done very quickly because of our minor Owen Azstalos who played Young JD. Amy wore two small transfers to widen her nose as well as her character look.
I understand that Gabriel Basso, who plays the older J.D. had some tattoo cover that had to be done. What did that entail from a time and product standpoint?Jamie Hess and Devin Morales did Gabriel Basso’s tattoo cover. He had a full sleeve on his left arm and a neck tattoo as well as some big ones on his other arm. It almost took as long to do the cover as to do Amy’s and Glenn’s makeup. Pax and Skin Illustrator and a sealer was used. He had pale, tan, red, and freckled skin. It was very challenging. They did a superb job!
Any products you could not have lived without on this film?
Bluebird Matte Sealer saved the day!
What was the best part of working on this project for you?
I loved my team and Patti’s team! So proud of everyone. What a joy! Truly, Ron Howard is just a brilliant gem. The combo of our actors and Ron made for a real dream come true.
Photos Lacey Terrell/NETFLIX