Princess Diana’s Hair, Tammy Wynette’s Makeup: Artisans Reveal How They Transformed Actors Into Well-Known Faces

Transforming actors into well-known figures such as Tammy Wynette and Princess Diana was a challenge for artisans, who experimented with techniques to come up with hair and makeup that would look authentic to viewers.

Cate Hall spent hours with Elizabeth Debicki while recreating Princess Diana’s sophisticated coiffure from the early 1990s for Season 5 of “The Crown.” Through a series of incremental adjustments to the wig — and plenty of patience from Debicki – Hall got the look she desired.

“You hold one another’s hand as you keep slicing the wig with a razor and inching towards a shape that feels recognizable,” she recalls of her collaboration with Debicki.

Hall admits that in her first attempt at the wig, Debicki looked more like a “lady called Brenda from 1983” than the glamorous royal. But she kept working on it.

And once the hair was right, it was a matter of the other departments stepping in with costuming and production design.

Jessica Chastain’s go-to hair and makeup team of Linda Dowds and Stephanie Ingram helped the Oscar winner for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” become country singer Tammy Wynette for Showtime’s “George and Tammy.” Chastain has already won a SAG award for her performance in the series.

Dowds used light and shadow to hollow out areas of Chastain’s face, employing latex wrinkle stipple for subtle aging effects. “The contour and highlight way of aging is really helpful,” says Dowds. That meant applying shading techniques to the creases of Chastain’s face, and using a highlighter to accentuate raised areas. By crinkling up the skin, “you’re able to get fine lines around eyes, pull on the neck and get the tops of the hands,” she explains.

The key, Dowds says, was keeping the color palette soft. “We bumped up the eye makeup a little with bigger lashes,” says Dowds.

Ingram’s hairstyles added to the look, as did costumes by Mitchell Travers. But Dowds, who won an Oscar for her work on “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” along with Ingram and Justin Raleigh, cautions that there’s a danger in going too big with a character’s hair and makeup.

“If you end up with big makeup, big hair and big costume, sometimes they fight each other,” she says. “What worked for us was that natural, sophisticated look that Tammy had to help showcase the rest of the look for that particular period.”

The hair and makeup team working on Hulu’s “Welcome to Chippendales” had a bit more discretion since Steve Banerjee, the man at the center of the limited series, isn’t as well known as Wynette or Princess Diana. Banerjee, portrayed by Kumail Nanjiani, transforms from a working-class immigrant to successful nightclub owner.

The only time audiences see Banerjee unshaven and unkempt is when he’s “the everyday man working in a convenience store,” notes makeup department head David Williams. But Banerjee also idolizes Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, and soon opens a nightclub that features exotic male dancers, then an anomaly.

“He aspires to be something other than this working-class man who saved everything that he can,” says Williams, who used makeup contouring to make Nanjiani’s face look heavier. “So he fakes it until he makes it.”

Hair department head Barry Lee Moe knew there was going to be a lot of hair in “Welcome to Chippendales” — “tons of hair, to be specific,” due to its setting in the disco era and beyond.

In dealing with real people, Moe says, “Some of these people still exist. So, it’s always a fine line in deciding what direction you’re going to go when you portray these characters in theTV show.”

He adds: “We tried to stay away from exact copies of anyone because it wasn’t really necessary to tell the story.”

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