Burton LeBlanc Steps Out into The Colonies With ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
In season two, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale took us to The Colonies. It’s where the women known as Unwomen are sent as punishment to cleanse them or if they’re infertile. The environment is cold and harsh and a fate worse than death as radioactive waste and pollution fill the air. Burton LeBlanc who is the makeup artist for the hit show talks about creating the look of the Unwomen, this time taking away any warm glow and replacing it with dark circles, skin peeling and dry lips as they brave the environment and fight.
With Elisabeth Moss staying behind for her daughter, how did her look change?
She has her mainstay look, which is worn down and distressed looking with dark under eye circles. We have discussions all the time depending on upcoming scenes as far as what she would like to do, and we break it down and go from there. If it’s a traumatic scene for her where she’s crying or outside in the cold, those makeup elements have to be carried out for scenes after that. For example, she’ll have a red nose in the cold or wetness under her eyes if she’s been crying – I love using a product called Egyptian Magic, gently applied just under the eye area – it gives a nice slightly wet, sheeny look.
In Season two, we went outside to the colonies – what did that involve as far as environment affecting the skin and such?
Filming The Colonies was a tough shoot in December, north of Toronto in harsh weather conditions. With the really dry, cold weather for the actors and dozens of extras, many of them would get runny noses and dry lips. Obviously, the dry lips were great, but on top of that we made sure no lip balm was used to counteract our makeup, and kept up on any runny noses and watery eyes since this could change the makeup. So just being on top of it with everyone for the long days that we were shooting outside.
I love the detail of the outside look. Were there any influences, and what was in your makeup toolbox to create the look?
Thank you! Because these women are working in rough, harsh conditions outside for long periods of time in a toxic environment, they’re pretty worn down. A brand I love using for special effects looks is called Maekup. I use their products for sunburn, tooth stain, dirt, dry lip… and there is a product called Dirtworks Grime Spray which is perfect for creating outside, hard labor looks too.
My influences come from any enslavement camps that have happened in the world, both past and present with the added element of working in carcinogenic waste.
What went into the toxic radiation and skin falling off the women?
We take away all the warm coloring of the women’s faces, leaving them with overall ashy, washed out tones with redness for wind, and sunburnt areas on their foreheads, noses, and ears. There are some great glazing gels for this effect. As far as the later stages of toxicity, and soon death for some of the women, we had them broken down into four stages with camera tests and all before Season 2 even began, even though we weren’t going to shoot the scenes for months. The last stage involved prosthetics and would show a more intense look with their skin broken open.
How much time did you typically spend with Elisabeth Moss doing her makeup?
I usually give 30 minutes for any makeup on Elisabeth Moss. I’ve got her Gilead look down to about 20 minutes now, but with some skin prep beforehand, and when she’s in her flashback look for June, it’s 30 minutes. If there’s any bruising or bloodwork on her I give another 15-20 minutes.
I noticed the change in Waterford’s beard. Talk about that a little bit.
The beginning of the show – Season 1, his beard was nice and groomed. It was a little bit shorter and more manicured. As the intensity of his character was shown I let it grow in fuller and longer gradually. A more commanding appearance. At the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 3, you start to see him unraveling. I let his beard grow in even more at times depending on the scene and what he was going through, making it more scraggly and thus affecting his appearance on camera.
What can you tease us about season three?
I think I gave a little teaser with commander Waterford unraveling – where is he going from here with all that’s been happening with him and Serena Joy. She’s also dealing with her own set of issues, like having her daughter taken away, and realizing what kind of man her husband is after all he did in Season 2, including cutting off her finger. You are now seeing that continue to develop in Season 3.