Emmys: From 'Walking Dead' to 'Empire,' These Crafts Reveal Characters' True Makeup

Empire S01E02 Still - H 2015
Chuck Hodes/FOX

Empire S01E02 Still - H 2015

From waterlogged zombies to post-prison couture to tattooed orgies, TV's masters of hair, makeup and costumes help strong storylines become more vivid.

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.


Sons of Anarchy
"Faith and Despondency"
FX • Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions

Tracey Anderson
Department Head Makeup Artist

This episode has everything: new characters like the white supremacists, Venus Van Dam and the transgender escort played by Walton Goggins. The episode opens with everyone — all the couples — nude and having sex. We called it a 'f—tage' instead of a montage. This involved all the guys — and girls — sweaty and writhing with full-body tattoos, even ones on Marilyn Manson's butt. Some actors, like Charlie [Hunnam], have their own large back tattoos that we have to cover up and then put the gang tats on. We have a torture scene, someone's eye being yanked out, wound progression and a huge fight with three different gangs — a magnitude of people with prosthetics, tattoos and character makeup. I put a wound on a little boy's arm, and anyone who has worked with kids knows how hard that is. Every actor had a stunt double to match his skin tone, hair and tattoos. For a 1½-hour episode, we shot for eight or nine days. The only thing we didn't have is period work, and that's what we're up against. Just having one 1970s flashback would have been amazing!"


HBO • HBO Films in association with Flavor Unit Entertainment and the Zanuck Co.

Lawrence Davis
Department Head Hairstylist

The biggest challenge doing hair for Bessie, the life story of American blues singer Bessie Smith [played by Queen Latifah], was the hot, humid weather in Atlanta, where we shot the entire film. But in a way, it really helped us get a natural look to the hair. We needed the authentic kinky African-American hair from that period in the South. It felt completely odd not to smooth out flyaways and frizz. There certainly was not a lot of product used on hair in this movie. We didn't do a lot of gels, but we did use some light pomade, and basically that was it. When we cast, we were very specific about color and weaves. Everyone was told to come to the set stripped down. If anyone came to set with a modern color, we had to spray it to look natural. There were no weaves by the time they sat in my chair. We used wigs on Queen Latifah because she's a performer. We also used wigs in natural textures. Huge afros were transformed into the styles of that period. I would go to the beauty supply stores and buy curly, textured wigs and tease them to get a woolly effect on them."

Khandi Alexander plays blues singer Bessie Smith’s sister Viola in the HBO movie 'Bessie.'


The Knick
"Get the Rope"
CinemaxCinemax Entertainment in association with Ambeg Screen Products, Anonymous Content and Extension 765

Jerry Decarlo
Department Head Hairstylist

I like this particular episode because it takes viewers inside and outside the hospital during a famous racially sparked riot in the New York slums. It's easy to do pretty period hair. It's harder to do gritty hair on the immigrants whose lives are falling apart and who are suffering with poverty, starvation and disease. All the poor had gray hair. Hair color had been invented then but was solely used by prostitutes and actresses. The only hue was red, which was created with peroxide and henna. Poor women put their hair up with combs, a scrub-lady version of the classic Gibson hairdo. Society women got their hair done weekly in Marcel waves, using rats of their own hair collected from hairbrushes and kept in a dish on their vanity tables. The waves were laid over the rats to create a pompadour. The bobby pin wasn't invented until the 1920s, named for the flapper bob. Pomades and hair tonics were popular for men's hair. We used one still sold today called Wild Root."

Andre Holland, who plays Dr. Algernon Edwards on Cinemax’s 'The Knick,' treats a patient in the aftermath of a race riot in New York City during the early 1900s.


Olive Kitteridge
"Incoming Tide"
HBO • HBO Miniseries in association with Playtone

Costume Designer

This miniseries spans 32 years, from 1980 to 2012. The first and most important thing for me was figuring out who Olive is. The key to unlocking Olive for me were things like she never wore pants, always skirts. But she's the type of woman who would not have a lot of clothes. She is a sturdy, competent and intelligent woman who loved to garden, very no-nonsense and utilitarian. She probably made her own clothing, which she does when she makes a dress to attend a family wedding in the episode 'Incoming Tide,' my favorite because she was so proud of the dress. I wanted to use natural and organic fabrics because she is living near the sea and gardening outdoors so often. We found the floral fabric at B&J Fabrics in New York. We pur­posely made the dress a little ill-fitting for authenticity because she was not a great seamstress. Later on, Olive puts on weight, so we had to put Frances McDormand in a fat suit with the right dimensions so she looked plump but not obese."

For the dress that Olive Kitteridge (played by Frances McDormand) made for a family wedding, costumer Jenny Eagan found the floral fabric at B&J Fabrics in New York.


"The Lyon's Roar"
FOX • Imagine Entertainment in association with 20th Century Fox Television

Rita D. McGhee 
Costume Designer

The episode I submitted was special because it's all about the Lyon family dynamics. And the Lyon White Party was amazing. Jussie Smollett [who plays middle son Jamal Lyon] told me he wanted to look regal and asked if he could wear an Indian suit. So we got him one. Then Terrence Howard [who plays patriarch Lucious Lyon] came in and said he wanted a Nehru collar. I didn't tell either of them what the other was wearing. They didn't know until they walked on the set. It's so funny, but when I first started, we knew that some stores put us on hold because they weren't familiar with the show. So we shopped like frugal fashionistas. Cookie even wore something from Target with leopard print on the bottom in the first season. It was in a designer capsule line. We added pearls and high-end heels. Style isn't all about money, it's about attitude. Style has to come from within."


Key & Peele
"Aerobics Meltdown"
Comedy Central • Central Productions LLC

Amanda Mofield 
Department Head Hairstylist

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele literally turn into their hilarious characters in my chair. It's just amazing to watch. We have meetings before the sketches and show photos back and forth. I loved doing the show, and they are so excited about the hair. Some of my personal favorite skits and hairpieces are in [episodes involving] the maze of mirrors, the white cop and, of course, I love the 'Prepared for Terries' skit from last season with the hair shaped like a hat and Keegan's braid comb-over. For Emmy episode 'Aerobics Meltdown,' they were exercising and dancing the whole day, eight or nine hours. They were sore for weeks afterward! Keegan's hairpiece was handmade with glue holding it on his head. After three hours of sweating, it started slipping off. I seriously had to put so much hairspray on to keep it glued to his head."

Says 'Key & Peele' hairstylist Amanda Mofield of the “Aerobics Meltdown” episode: Keegan-Michael Key’s (right) “hairpiece was handmade with glue holding it on his head. After three hours of sweating, it started slipping off. I seriously had to put so much hairspray on to keep it glued to his head.”


The Walking Dead
AMC • AMC Studios, Stalwart Films LLC, Circle of Confusion, Valhalla Entertainment

Greg Nicotero
Special Makeup Effects Department Head

Finding ways visually to create different looks for our undead continues to be a challenge from season to season. 'Strangers' was submitted because we felt the waterlogged walker makeup we created varied drastically from our classic look by using full-body prosthetics, exposed bone and sloughing skin to accentuate the submerged motif. We took to augmenting facial prosthetics with hand-punched brows and beards while allowing the custom dentures to reveal even more skull and bone around the upper and lower jaw, with loose, liquid-filled prosthetics to replicate saturated and bloated skin. Our team of six prosthetic makeup artists average 70 hero character makeups per episode, using silicone and foam latex prosthetics, contact lenses and, at times, full chest and hand appliances to augment bone structure and simulate emaciated walking corpses."


Fox • Imagine Entertainment in association with 20th Century Fox Television

Paolo Nieddu
Costume Designer

Today's music industry is a very material world, very trend-driven. Everything is circa now. So all the clothes are grand entrances, big moments. And those outfits can't be repeated. It's always next, next, next. Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon is definitely the show's eye candy. Her character is re-entering society after 17 years in prison. It ends up that her middle son puts her in touch with his personal shoppers at the right stores, like Barneys, to work with her. So when she first storms into the boardroom, she wears an au courant version of what she was arrested in. I chose a Roberto Cavalli animal-print body-con dress and a vintage lynx coat. I took in the shoulders to get the '80s out of it and gave her a Balenciaga clutch. Because her last name is Lyon, there is always an animal reference in her clothes and she wears a panther ring, which is a nod to Cartier."


"Under the Knife"
Fox • Warner Bros. Television

Lisa Padovani 
Costume Designer

I was never asked to re-create costumes from the comic books. But I did ask [Gotham executive producer] Danny Cannon if he had any thoughts about specific DC characters' looks. In the Emmy episode, there's a black-and-white ball inspired by Truman Capote's legendary society affair. For the young Catwoman, Selena Kyle, played by Camren Bicondova, we did a combo of vintage and modern to keep it timeless. Her princess gown was black and pale blush with leather trim and lace gloves, a studded headband and fishnet hosiery for edge. I found some amazing rubber Mary Janes at United Nude on Bond Street in New York. Their shoes are designed by architects and artists. We built almost all the costumes for the principals because off-the-rack never fits right and you're at the mercy of whatever is in fashion at the time. We custom-made a tux for David Mazouz [who plays the young Bruce Wayne]. But we put Erin Richards [who plays Barbara Kean] in a mermaid gown from Bergdorf's with a vintage white fox stole and added a magical touch with a $35,000 lapis necklace."

A young Bruce Wayne, played by David Mazouz, dances with the young Catwoman, played by Camren Bicondova, at a Truman Capote-style ball in 'Gotham.' Says costume designer Lisa Padovani: “We custom made David’s tux. For Camren, we did a combo of vintage and modern to keep it timeless.”


The Mindy Project
"San Francisco Bae"
Fox • 3 Arts Entertainment and Universal Television

Salvador Perez
Costume Designer

When I was first asked to do The Mindy Project, I was told the show wanted to be aspirational in terms of the fashion. Mindy is not your typical size three. She has a real body, not a model's. But no one can wear color like her. The reason Mindy looks as good as she does on the show is that unlike some actresses, she gives me time to do my job. My background is as a stitcher, so I know how to build clothes. Rather than try to alter off-the-rack things, I started custom-making costumes for her. At first, it was a few lightweight colorful wool coats with texture and movement that make it look like we're shooting in New York, not on an L.A. lot. Now it's head-to-toe outfits. In this episode, we also have a flashback to the character's college days in 2005. I put her in a belted cowl-neck sweater and bell-bottoms. I had seen college photos in [Kaling's] book. Mindy was definitely following trend, not setting trend the way she is now."

Chris Messina and Mindy Kaling, who wears head-to-toe custom-made outfits, in episode 13 of season three of 'The Mindy Project.'


The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
Lifetime • Asylum Entertainment

Jordan Samuel 
Department Head Makeup Artist

The tricky thing through­out the production was making Kelli Garner look as much like Marilyn Monroe as she possibly could. She had the basics, but I had to enhance that by researching the work that Marilyn's longtime friend and makeup artist Allan Snyder had designed for her over the course of her short life. It's important to know that Marilyn was not a representation of her time or the look of the 1950s. She was an anomaly with her own signature look. I didn't design her look for this project. I merely tried to replicate what Snyder invented during their time together. We had a limited time for the looks and changes, which were extensive and time-consuming. Doing it every day was the hard part. Particularly labor intensive were the 1960s sequences with the psychiatrist in which Marilyn is older. I had to put aging makeup on Kelli and then Snyder's makeup on top of that. And she was breaking down through that whole sequence, too."

Kelli Garner in 'The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.' “It’s important to know that Marilyn was not a representation of her time. She was an anomaly,” says makeup artist Jordan Samuel.