How did you come to work on The Great?
I came on board after interviewing with [creator] Tony McNamara and [executive producer] Marian Macgowen when season one was green-lit. I loved the tone and look of the show from the pilot and was delighted to be involved.
As the makeup and hair designer, where did you look for inspiration when designing the look for the characters?
I started my research with a deep dive into the 18th century, looking at portraiture, sculpture and historical text. From there I broke the mold, introducing modern texture and fashion references to complement the narrative and language of the show. It’s a fun mix of historical accuracy with creative license, which Tony’s writing allows you to explore.
Whose makeup and hair are you responsible for?
I’m involved with the design and setting up of everyone’s looks but I did hair and makeup for Adam Godly who plays Archie. We have something like 160 cast members so it’s difficult for me to be tied to set, as we have constant fittings, but I love doing Archie’s look and Adam is a dream to work with. I also had the pleasure of doing Gillian Anderson’s makeup for her role as Catherine’s mother. Another fun challenge in season two was Nick Hoult playing Pugachev, the lookalike of Peter. I spent quite some time trying to work out how to keep him looking enough like Peter, but for there to be something off enough to confuse the viewer. I landed on cheek prosthetics, wider teeth, differently shaped brows and curly hair. It was a really fun hair and makeup to do.
Who makes up your team?
Hair and makeup supervisor is Sarah Nuth; Elle Fanning’s personals are Lorraine Glynn (hairstylist) and Erin Ayanian (makeup); Key hair and makeup are Jess O’Shea, Jenny Hammond and Anna Morena; hair and makeup artists Emma Trachtenburg, Sophie Ashworth, Katie Dumont, Tonia Vernavá; crowd hair and makeup supervisor Jo Neilsen.
The Great seems to merge an 18th century and modern design. How do you put a creative spin on 18th century makeup and hair?
We play with asymmetry and modern hair textures but still use period techniques to get the shapes accurate before we mess with them. The hard front wigs are a mixture of yak and human hair blends. Yak to imitate the horse hair used at the time, blended with human hair for a nicer finish and easier styling. Makeup is a mix of modern and period—dewy bases with strong cheeks and lips. We made patches from flocked paper and stencils to imitate the material ones used at the time, some in unusual shapes, such as the beetles and insects on Aunt Elizabeth to add to her off-beat charm. The scripts allow us to play with the visuals. I borrow shapes and styles from both earlier and later in the 18th century and then add a bit of modern texture or a nod to a 2018 runway style. The Great is a really fun creative process and I work closely with both the costume designer Sharon Long and production designer Francesca Di Mottola to work out where we can push things. It’s a hugely collaborative environment.
How would you describe Catherine’s look versus the other characters?
Catherine’s look grounds us in the history, she has clean authentic styles that are natural and beautiful. Her look is more accessible. The world of the court around her is decadent and debauched. We were able to push this with some of the characters and especially with the background artists. It helps, particularly in season one, that the viewer can witness this strange world along with Catherine. Go on her journey with her and the visuals support that.
With a large cast and very lavish costume and set design, what challenges do you face with makeup and hair?
It’s such a fast-paced shoot; in season one we shot 11 days per episode, with no prep time in between. Each character has to have multiple wigs to keep up with the schedule and turn-arounds. Doing 18th century at that pace is one hell of a wild ride for our department. Season two was shot amid the pandemic. The days were increased to 13 shot days per episode, but it was hugely challenging to work with these big wigs wearing masks, visors, and social distancing. We all love the show and it’s a real treat to be able to create such colorful and elaborate characters, but it’s very hard work.
Key products on The Great?
Our makeup go-to products are Glossier skin tint and stretch concealer for a no-makeup look. We also use a lot of MAC Face and Body. Chantecaille Future Skin for heavier base. Blushes and lip color are a mixture of Glossier, MAC, Tata Harper, Stila, Bobbi Brown and Hourglass. Final shout-outs to Trish McEvoy under-eye concealer and Suzanne Kaufman Lip balm, both amazing! For me, skincare is the key to good makeup, so we gave bespoke routines to our cast. Key products include Sunday Riley CEO, Emma Hardie revitalizing cream and Elemis under-eye masks. In terms of hair, most of the characters are in wigs. The hero items are our dowelling rods, perm rods, flocked rollers and wig ovens. It’s vital that we keep our wigs in good condition and we do have some key products that we love: Olaplex and Virtue shampoo and conditioners, L’Oréal Tecni Pli setting spray, Aveda Confixor, Bumble and Bumble texture spray, Layrite pomade for flyaways. We use a lot of flour and pomade for our hard front wigs to imitate the look of the lard and flour used in that period.
Words Shannon Levy
Photos Courtesy of Gareth Gatrell/Hulu