By Daniel Curet | Journeyman Hair Stylist and
By Christien Tinsley | Make-up Set. Head and Make-up Effects Creator
I arrived at an undisclosed location in Santa Clarita in the middle of the night. I parked and shuttled into one of the most organized background rooms. I was there to work with a core group of 10 hair stylists on 200 “host” and “guest” characters for the Sweetwater Town built at Melody Ranch. Westworld was one of the biggest HBO shows filmed in Los Angeles. There were three hair trailers and an additional room at the Ranch. There were double-up units, splinter units, wig-washing units and a really large cast consisting of 40 principal and 200 background actors.
For the fans among you now watching the show, the work speaks for itself. It has period Western and modern/futuristic hair styles. The show has a polished vibe that only true collaboration within the Hair Department can achieve on such a large scale. No detail has been overlooked. Each and every actor on that set was given a specific look by the hair stylists and make-up artists. Most of the time, achieving that look required the use of several wigs and hairpieces juxtaposed like a jigsaw puzzle. At other times, the wigs were applied, greased, dusted and bolted on to last all day in the excruciating heat of the canyons.
Those of you who have had the pleasure of knowing Joy Zapata personally know she does not hold back from sharing her knowledge and opinions on all things visual and all things hair. While we were in the midst of getting everyone ready, Joy would cruise by checking in with everyone, looking at the work getting done, critiquing some and complimenting others. She would then gather us in a little meeting to go over the day’s work and overall vibe of the specific scenes ahead. The scripts and daily sides were under tight restrictions and everyone was sworn to secrecy. The following are excerpts from conversations loosely based on a few questions I asked Joy over the two months I ended up “playing” with the team.
How did you get started in the industry?
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. My family moved to California. I went to beauty school after high school. On my first job, I was a butterfly in The Disney Electric Parade. They had an opening in the Hair Department. At that time in the ’60s, everyone was wearing wigs and hairpieces. Soon after taking the job, I became the first 19-year-old head of the Wig Department at Disney doing wigs for Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Electric Parade, Tinkerbelle, Snow White and basically everything that went to Florida. It’s funny, at that time, there were only three employees at Disney and now there are about 100 that are members of our union. One day, Lee Grant called the Wig Department looking for a hair stylist/make-up artist for her film, The Stronger, which led to my first union movie, Airport 1977. Josephine Turner gave me a lace wig to use and I didn’t know how to block it or what do with it. So, I threw it in the sink and watched it shrink before my eyes. That was my introduction to Van Horn lace wigs. I almost got fired. That’s how I got in the union and now I have been a member 38 years.
What do you say to hair stylists that have never met you and have heard about your reputation as a “tough” department head?
I honestly and truly don’t expect anything from anyone that I wouldn’t perform for them myself. I want them to work as hard for me as I would for them. Some people might not have the same knowledge or experience, but it is important to communicate and be a facilitator and to spot when someone is having a problem so that, as a teacher, I can help them achieve what they are there to achieve. I knew when hiring all those Local 706ers that they would bring something special to this project that maybe I didn’t think of and I pulled it out of them. Am I tough? Yes, I am but it is because I’m tougher on myself than anyone else.
Sometimes we forget what is happening on the outside of our industry. We should have classes educating us in conduct and appearance as well. How do we dress? How do we speak to our producers and writers? How do we present ourselves to the world? How do you sell yourself out there in the big world? I don’t pretend to be easy; I want it the way I want it. This show is the most difficult show I have ever done. We now have to bring our iPads and computers knowing how to use these in our crafts. Do you realize what we have to do to run a department? It isn’t just bringing a bag of products and curling irons anymore.
How did you feel about accepting the department head position when the producers approached you?
I was frightened like anyone else would be because this show is huge and I knew that with the support of Christien Tinsley (Department Head Make-up) and all the talented hair stylists and the other departments I collaborated with, I would be able to succeed without scratches!
What advice do you have to share with the general membership based on your experience?
I think the membership should know that when you take on such a large project, there should be no egos involved, including mine. We should have our vision but should all be able to step back and become storytellers with our skills by creating characters. I have to find out from the actors who their characters are and relay that to the hair stylists working for me and let them come up with some ideas as well. We know what we want when we see it, and we reach down into our bag of tricks to come up with a few ideas to present to the directors and/or producers. I honestly could not have done it without the talent from the Local 706 hair stylists and make-up artists. I can’t take the credit myself.
Take time to think about the show you’re working on. The business has gone to simple hair styles. Let’s get back to making hairdressing a creative and collaborative process. I know hair stylists who would say to a costume designer or a production designer not to tell them how to do their job. The costume designer has fittings with the actors. We need to understand what happens in that room. We have to facilitate the actors to become the character. Our hair styles can’t be bigger than the costume and they can’t overpower the actors. You have to make friends with every department (especially make-up) and collaborate with them to be on “the team.” Learn to ask for supply references. I know where to buy Bumble and Bumble. I never thought I would have to buy a 25-inch horse’s tail dyed bright red to make an Indian headdress, go down to Moskatel’s to get the buckram and then go to a milliner to help sew it together. These are the people we should get into our craft seminars so that we can start thinking outside the box. I went to Western Costume and asked the guy who made Cher’s headdresses for Vegas, how to get the horns on an Indian headdress to stay up. This way you can go to special effects or construction or props to have a specialized item created or adjusted for your use. Your vision is out there among the production designers and costume designers. We need to know everything so we can remain the best. Let’s get back to craftsmanship.
Name a few significant changes you have personally
experienced in the industry?
The lack of filmmaking experience newcomers have is troubling. People are not interested in watching and studying contemporary or classic films, costumes or actors as much. New people set themselves up to fail by ignoring honored traditions. Technical changes may have made the filming process quicker and easier, however, on a show this size there is nothing quick about doing wigs and hairpieces and that has to be explained in an understandable manner to the timekeepers.
Someone put up a YouTube video on how to load into a make up trailer. In my opinion, this is the type of information we need to keep within our ranks as professionals in our industry so that we are not inadvertently teaching unqualified people to take over our jobs. Our proprietary knowledge should not be given away.
Specifically which actors did you take care of?
Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jimmi Simpson and Ed Harris
What techniques did you use?
On Evan, I alternated between two 30-inch, three-quarter falls that had to be washed every night blocked and rolled in huge pin curls in an alternating “S” pattern from left to right. It was held by “T” pins to avoid clip marks in order to achieve that beautiful ’40s wave pattern that only a set will produce. On Thandie, I used a grooming cream and with a boar bristle brush, conked her hair into tiny waves, braided it and then incorporated textured switches for the up do. When the hair was down, I used a custom-made three-quarter fall marrying her front with a tiny iron.
Talk about the general hair shapes created for the Host women?
We had to be very careful to not make it look like the ’60s saloon girls from Gunsmoke. I personally love asymmetry. The producers did not want the hair to be bigger than the hats or costumes, so we kept it tight on both sides high on the crown to support the hats and complement the bustle on the costumes. The curls were sculpted with sets, then brushed and pushed into shapes and anchored. The hairpieces were blended into the hair styles so they wouldn’t look like they were plopped on top of their heads. We tried to match textures of hair to the fabrics they’re wearing in order to tell a story with our hair styles. It is not easy to style hair for wind, rain and dust and make it last for 14 hours.
Talk about the Ghost Nation tribal hair styles?
We had to ask ourselves, “Who are they? Is it a tribe we know?” It is a fictional tribe, yet we had to be careful in designing them not to insult or offend any living people. We used rental Indian wigs. We got buckram (used to build hats), then wrapped synthetic hair around them to create a base for the feathered headdresses.
We created the complete looks, then we deconstructed it for the scene to make it well-worn and lived-in. Could you imagine if we had major hair style changes on this show with the scheduling? One of the things that made the BG room move fast is that we were prepped and ready to go. We had all the hairpieces and wigs pre-styled and teched so that all we had to do was incorporate them into the actor’s hair; otherwise, we would have had to do everyone’s hair from scratch.
Any last words?
I want to give thanks to each and every hair stylist who came out to work for us even if it was for only one day. I want to thank my closest team, Pavy Olivarez, Bruce Samia, Norma Lee and Donna Anderson, for tirelessly bringing their best each and every day we filmed at locations with wind, dirt, rain and sweltering heat. I also want to thank Christien Tinsley and his make-up team for their support and amazing collaboration. Westworld was truly a collaborative effort between the hair, make-up, costumes and production design teams. A very special credit also needs to be given to the wig and hairpiece suppliers. Patti DeHaney rented hair goods from her fabulous collection approximately 125 switches, 100 wiglets, 100 cascades and three-quartert falls, 50-65 Indian wigs. We also purchased wigs from Ron at Cal East, William Wong, Bob Kretchmer and Renate Leuschner.
Being in this business is a gift and I’m so grateful to have had this dream team!
I would like to start this article by acknowledging my deep gratitude for the make-up crew I was fortunate enough to serve. Every minute from every artist who gave a day, a week, a month and even a year to this show is the reason why we made it through successfully.
For this reason, I would like to offer some front-title credits for the amazing make-up crew of Westworld. Key make-up and amazing talents who helped establish the look of the show in the pilot: Myriam Arougheti, Gerry Quist, Lydia Milars and Felicia Linsky. Key make-up for the remaining nine episodes and the equally talented Elisa Marsh and Rolf Keppler. Although they had no “key” title, these two were without question indispensable, Rachel Hoke and John Damiani. Background key make-up, prosthetics and the “glue” for all things Westworld, a HUGE thank you to Georgia Allen.
It would take the entire magazine to write about each of the artists and their contributions, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them by name because everyone’s contribution was the key to our success: Lygia Orta Dominie Till, Margaret Prentice, Dennis Liddiard, Joe Podnar, Michael Blake, Ian Cromer, Robert Maverick, Toby Lamm, Scott Wheeler, Ron Pipes, Jen Aspinall, Aurora Bergere, Ed French, Amy Lederman, Cynthia Hernandez, Hiroshi Yada, Jason Hamer, Ryan Ward, Zoe Franklin, David Abbott, Kevin Haney, Kim Felix, Sabine Taylor, Brad Look, Michelle Vittone, Kelley Carpoccia, Greg Nelson, Sandy Rowden, Molly Craytor, Sheri Zebeck, Dave Dupuis, Victoria Jackson, Brian Penikas, Ken Diaz, Heather Mages, Heather Plott, Ralis Kahn, Roxy D’Alonzo, Mark Nieman, Mark Garbarino, Brian Kinney, Jen Derringer, Tania Verna, Charlotte Scovill, Cheryl Nick, Nicole Sortillion, Elizabeth Mbousia, Michelle Telesis, Lisa Rocco, Darla Albright, Ruth Haney, Melvone Farrell, Nadege Schoenfeld, Bart Mixon, Robin Beauchesne, Rachel Benson, Andrea Steele, Becky Cotton, Tyson Fountain, Allan Apone, Anita Brabec, Dave Snyder, Leah Robin, Kevin Westmore, Laverne Munroe and Annie Maniscalco.
From the time I was asked to write this article, I have contemplated how I could share the experience of working on Westworld. With 20 years as a working artist in this business, I can say in all sincerity, that it was one of the most ambitious, aggressive, rewarding and exhausting projects I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of. We, of course, had the standard hardships of no money or time. Designing brought on the obvious pressures of doing HBO’s next tent pole project following up Game of Thrones, which is no small task. Without question, I was fortunate to be working in Los Angeles with all the local resources one could wish for and with a crew of artists that have been an inspiration to me throughout my career and continue to inspire.
The truth is, working on Westworld mimics one of the Delos Parks’ very own mission statements. Just like a guest visiting the park, the show means something different to everyone.
My perspective is shadowed with the duties of department heading. There is the responsibility of spending a large portion of time dealing with the daily politics of management, dealing with restricted time frames and unreasonable requests. It means consistently having battles over “make-up effect budgets” which will always be over costs of “pattern” because the scope of the scripts will always be beyond that of their bank account. Days are filled with justifying additional artists required for enormous background scenes, seeing the best plans foiled by a changing schedule or BAD directing. Incorrect call sheets, multiple units in multiple locations, dividing the crew—which then incurs more costs, which in turn demands more discussions and more justifications, etc. My overall perspective of the show was wonderful. Sure, it was filled with daily challenges both managerial and creative, but we had inventive new scripts from Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy. We were blessed with a cast of veterans: Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood. We were introduced to up-and-coming actors Angela Safaryan, Steven Ogg, Jimmy Simpson, Ben Barnes and many more. We had exceptional departments with exceptional department heads who hired some of the most exceptional crews I’ve ever worked with. Westworld had tremendous sets and resources that far surpassed most episodic resources. It has backers like J.J. Abrams, HBO and heck, we even had Elon Musk and Christopher Nolan pay us a visit and contribute ideas and direction. It certainly was a playground of talent and possibilities mixed with all the gnarliness of a typical Hollywood grind. The days were exhausting which led to laughter, and this laughter was a building block for so many wonderful new relationships. I had never been more thrilled to be a part of something with such great potential and also equally frustrated at the common follies of this business. Discovery was around every turn for every artist.
Westworld truly did give a different experience to every participant. For some artists, the experience was magical, a childhood throwback or an idea of what it must have been like to work on an old Hollywood Western.
Working on Westworld was an opportunity to revisit a place from my childhood in the 1970s. Everything that inspired my career came out of that decade, and the movie Westworld was a part of it. Being involved with this new telling of a story that had such an impact on me has been a gift from the universe. I have re-examined elements that moved me to awe and fear in the original story. The new vision has brought me to terms with another world of thought that inspires and scares me more than anything I could have fathomed as an 8 year old in 1973. It was a privilege to be there. For another artist, the nostalgic feeling that comes with rusted old sets with creaky floorboards and the air of dirt and sweat may have been loss. For me, it was a daily reminder of a bigger purpose or reason.
Westworld was not only professional, hard-working and full of talent, but also a fun, friendly and with a loving group of people. It was a unique experience. Some might have only participated in the futuristic science fiction aspect of the show, perhaps spending working on weird, off-putting scenes, applying prosthetics and painting various tones of death and gore. Or maybe an artist only saw a sea of nude men and women, painting them in shades of blue, golds and reds, coating them in gloss and glitter from head to toe.
There are various levels to Westworld revealing a sexy, erotic view of a very frightening world. The make-up required in the show allowed for creative make-up techniques—soft, glamorous beauty, dirty Western, erotic fantasy and grotesque special effect wounds, all created by a huge group of creative and enthusiastic make-up artists. For some, the thrill was the overall experience; for others, maybe doing fantasy period make-up or brothel beauty was the bee’s knees. Hair might have been as the identifying experience, and in many cases the lack of hair. Beards, mustaches, sideburns and many, many, many, Merkins.
I was honored to be a part of the extrodinary make-up team who applied various make-up designs daily from beauty, character, period, extensive body make-up as well as extensive hair work in all kinds of conditions. I am so proud to have been in the trenches with this special group of artists. Being asked on the make-up team on Westworld was an opportunity to be challenged, invigorated and creative. For others, it was an entirely new experience, something so large and comprehensive and with so many moving parts that it could make you dizzy just thinking about it. It was an opportunity to find growth.
It was an honor to have worked on Westworld. Having the opportunity to work alongside some of the most talented make-up artists in Hollywood, changed the artist I am forever. Westworld was exhausting, challenging, hilarious, inspiring and allowed me to experience what it looks like when everyone is invested, as a team, to make something great.
One of the best times of my career has been one of the toughest. Doing things I’ve never done before, working hours that others were shocked at … and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I couldn’t be happier with the crew and also the outcome. Some, no doubt, will only see a blur of moments and memories strung together but will remember the feeling of hard work, creativity and the friendships that were built during the long hours endured.
Westworld was a great collaboration of a team of experienced make-up artists, working on some innovative make-up! It was such a pleasure to be included and welcomed. We enjoyed working together, doing great make-ups, building friendships, supporting each other and surviving the 18-hour night.
Shooting Westworld was a rare experience. It was grueling at times but so satisfying. Everyone was committed to each other and getting the job done. It was dusty and hot, our calls were early and the hours were long. Then you get to set and look around and think, “This is magical and I’m glad to be here.” It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am grateful.
Then there are those at the Effects Lab who saw the show only from the perspective of an “items to build” list, no context in which to fit the “why?”
No matter how you cut a slice of Westworld and dish it up, the 70-plus make-up artists employed over the course of two years shared one common perspective about the show not yet mentioned … complete and utter mystery to the show’s storyline. The mysterious and subversive writing may have been one of the most challenging aspects of the show. Concepts, designs and schedules can easily be discussed extensively. The story line could not be. It was very important for Jonah and Lisa that we DO NOT discuss the scripts with other crewmembers or the actors. Other restrictions included no cellphones on set, no department scripts to hand out and no cameras on set. Some exceptions needed to be made so we could capture continuity, but photography permissions were assigned only to a few individuals. I took full responsibility for these persons’ actions. Photos were usually taken in discretion and off the set. This handicap took some time to get used to. Even now as I write this article, I am in question of what I can or cannot say. Common conversations at the make-up chair were filled with humored frustration and ended in silence. It is really hard to create a subtle likeness make-up on an actor who is asking, “Why are you changing my eyebrows?” But you’re not allowed to tell them.
I sat in multiple four-hour production meetings with every director from every episode 3-10 and would have to try and explain (without explaining) “why” we can’t provide certain effects because of certain “rules” that apply to the story. The directors didn’t even know what was going on! I still can’t discuss in this article why some hosts could be shot or killed in certain ways while others could not. If this article comes out before the last episode, then whatever I might have said would have been a spoiler … you’re welcome. One of the most common questions from any actor was “Am I a host (robot)?” It wasn’t before long that the crew was asking themselves that very same question.
As you can see, Westworld was so much more than just make-up. We were doing a futuristic, historical period piece. It’s an oxymoron that allowed for a tremendous amount of latitude in design but is also wherein lies the difficulty. We weren’t just making a period piece; we were making a fantasy of the period piece for the guests. One of the mysteries is the “where” and “when” does it take place? So it was important for us to follow a neutral path and not to explain the period of time.
Looking into the past (first episode), there is a character by the name of “Old Bill” who is played by the brilliant Michael Wincott. We find “Dr. Ford” (Tony Hopkins) in discussion with his old friend. In fact, Old Bill was the second character created in the park next to “Dolores.” When we reveal Old Bill to the audience, our objective was for the audience to immediately identify this as a classic robot you might find at a Disneyland amusement park. Mixed with deteriorating rubber skin, movements that stutter and the lack of ability to improvise, Old Bill came to life. He was achieved with full silicone prosthetics, some old-fashioned Liquid Latex, an extensive coloration done with Endura Performance Paints. A heavy hand-laid beard that is intended to look like a very good but obviously false, a mustache and goatee finished it off. Hiroshi Yada assisted in the application and Old Bill is one of my personal favorites in the show.
One of the biggest ongoing hardships of the show was the painting of nude actors. Where to even begin? I’ll start by explaining, it was a rare day if we didn’t have a nude body to paint. We had diagnostic (where they examine the Hosts’ performance), In-Take Rooms (where they bring in the daily dead), Repair and Maintenance (where they repair the Hosts), Cold Storage (where they dispose of the decommissioned), Pariah Brothel (Gold Sex Idols and Red Sex Guards who exist merely for guest’s pleasure) and the occasional nude for a speckled-in sex scene. I commend the entire crew and Georgia’s leadership in making this daily endeavor run smoothly and with the upmost professionalism. Did you know the average human body has 14-18 square feet of surface? If it takes 15 minutes to paint a face, in theory it should take 3-4 hours to paint a body. Understandably, we didn’t have that kind of time. The point is, we covered a lot of skin; my guestimate is 11,200 square feet of flesh throughout the show. In addition, most of these performers nowadays “lack the hair down there.” This was a concern for me because I wanted the Hosts of Westworld not to fall too deep into one fetish or perversion over another. Thus, the “Merkin Military of Westworld” began recruiting. Hundreds of merkins were created and floated for daily and disposable use. We kept the sizes respectable and the color range vast. Oh yes, the crew shirt slogans were flying! It’s obvious that the Cold Storage bodies and the Pariah sex toys were painted but I am not sure if anyone realizes that every Host that sits or stands nude in the BG has a layer of make-up topped off with a little LORAC Tantillizer (Love this stuff) and of course, a merkin.
In addition to the overwhelming amount of nude characters, we also had armies of BG. Every show has BG and some shows have large numbers and perhaps, I was naive about how TV works but we had an average of 750 extras per episode. This works out to be about 40 extras per day, every day for 10 months. Needless to say, we used hundreds of facial hairpieces, dirt, sweat, etc. Pretty typical concepts but continuity was the challenge. If you have been watching, then you understand that it “loops,” meaning we are essentially replaying a narrative that repeats itself. For those of you who are fans of the movie, it’s Groundhog Day. The problem lies in the fact that we shot more than two years and actors and BG changed almost daily. Yet, the Hosts can’t reflect these changes (in some cases they can, but I can’t tell you why). For this reason, Georgia and the make-up team developed a facial hair and continuity checkout system for more than 250 BG characters which safe guarded the show’s resources and story line. Brilliant!!
In addition to the standard day-to-day make-ups, I was also blessed with the task of make-up effects design and creation, which was done through Tinsley Studios. We provided everything from the Vitruvian Man in the circular tooling reminiscent of a car factory assembly line to an onslaught of prosthetics that were required daily. We knew the show would have to be a marriage of practical and visual effects, so we always focused on how to achieve a quality effect within the shooting schedule and the financial restrictions. I feel that part of my job is to put on my “producer’s hat” and objectively review the needs of any given scene. As much as I am an advocate for practical effects, I am also an advocate of what is correct for production. Even though an effect can be done practically, doesn’t mean it always should be. There are many cases where the marriage between practical and visual effects works equally as well and ultimately, costs production less. There is a moment when the Woodcutter in Episode 3 is getting his head sawed off. We built a practical fake head that could be cut and bleed. We could have added eyes popping open as well but it was more cost-effective to have VFX comp in the eyes onto the fake head. Another example is a moment where we see Dolores as a robot while they are fitting her new skin. This was achieved with prosthetics and a blue screen body stocking. We had discussed building the body practical and there was no reason why we couldn’t, but the labor involved is so extensive, that creating it digitally and marrying the two is simply more cost-effective. I can’t think of a moment or scene where we didn’t completely build or assist in the make-up effects resolution. One of the ways we assisted in saving production money was to build fake nude bodies in sitting, standing and laying-down positions. The reason was so we could reduce the volume of nude actors required for a scene that was more intimate. This helped with turnaround times, lunch breaks and pre-dressing. About every technique was employed during this show to survive the pace.
No doubt the show had an ambitious story to tell. Shooting more than a two-year period and with a leading cast of 40-plus actors, stunt doubles, prosthetics, nude actors, animals, background actors, period make-up, beauty make-up, make-up effects, make-up effects set dressing, and on and on … we had our hands full with never a dull moment to spare.
In closing, Westworld was a grueling process and will forever be rewarding. I would be lying if I said it ended the way it began for me. It tested my skills at every turn, challenged my patience and I’m sure that I am a little shorter and more frazzled because of it. I also know I am a better person and a more rounded artist because of it. What was most important for me, however, was that the crew knew this was a place where you had fun doing your job. Sure, the work would be hard, sure it would be hot, sure we would have our occasional differences but through it all, having fun and being happy was key. Eventually, the show will be a thing of the past but the lasting feeling you’re left with is so important. Sometimes I have to pinch my arm and remind myself that we get to paint faces and play “make believe” for a living, how cool! Have fun, be happy brothers and sisters. Happiness is KING!!•