Awards Daily chats with Emmy-nominated makeup artist Michelle Radow about working on the Big Little Lies episode “She Knows.”
Last Emmy season, Michelle Radow was nominated for Outstanding Makeup for a Limited Series or Movie for the HBO limited series Sharp Objects, and this year, she’s nominated for Outstanding Contemporary Makeup (Non-Prosthetic) on Big Little Lies, along with her BLL team consisting of Erin Rosenmann, Karen Rentrop, Molly R. Stern, Angela Levin, Simone Almekias-Siegl, Miho Suzuki, and Claudia Humburg.
In “She Knows,” the episode Radow and her team are nominated for, Renata (Laura Dern) throws Amabella (Ivy George) a ’70s themed birthday party to end all ’70s themed birthday parties, with of course all of the Monterey Five in attendance—and looking fabulous.
In an email exchange, Radow told me about her TV inspiration with the party, the teeth she had to accommodate in her work (note: not Mary Louise’s), and how many makeup artists you need to throw a proper disco party worthy of Donna Summer.
Awards Daily: Congratulations on your nomination. What’s it like being nominated for the second year in a row?
Michelle Radow: Absolutely insane in the best way possible, especially during these trying times we are all facing. I am filled with such gratitude and overwhelmed with emotion. AD: In recent years, you’ve seemed to work on a lot of female-driven shows. Is this on purpose or do you think more shows are becoming more female-driven?
MR: I didn’t really think about this, but you’re right! I think it’s a combination of more female-driven shows being created and that I’m drawn to limited/mini series.
AD: You’re nominated for the BigLittleLiesepisode “She Knows,” which includes a ’70s theme party. What was it like doing makeup for that?
MR: Amabella’s Disco Birthday Party was epic! It took Key Makeup Artist, Erin Rosenmann and I a full 10-hour day just to set up two additional makeup trailers, and this was in addition to the three we already had on a normal day.
For the disco party, we employed 18 additional artists for almost a week. I really tried to make it fun and organized, using inspiration boards, buckets of glitter, stencils, and clear instructions so each artist could feel empowered to be creative. Each artist was assigned to a specific station: ’70s Glam, Facial Hair, or Face Painting. We had about 80 kids, two groups of 40 to go through face painting every day. Kids were rotated out when they reached their max worked hours for the day.
My favorite looks were the principal kids (face-painted) disco looks, I had such a blast designing and executing those looks!
AD: That’s so cool! What were your inspirations from the ‘70s?
MR: I spent many nights wandering the aisles of Michael’s crafts, googling the late ’70s, disco books, etc., to get inspired. I also liked watching Soul Train and music videos. I kept it loose and didn’t take anything too literal or serious as it was a children’s birthday party and just had fun with it. AD: You also are nominated for the episode that features the slap heard round the world, between Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Mary Louise (Meryl Streep). How many takes did they do and were you concerned about maintaining the makeup?
You’ll have to ask Angela Levin, who was Nicole’s personal makeup artist and J.Roy Helland, who has worked with Meryl for decades! They were both on set with them during the slap. Being the pros that Nicole and Meryl are, I have a feeling they nailed that quickly. AD: I know that Streep wore prosthetic teeth. Did you have to accommodate the makeup around that? And if so, how?
MR: Four of the children were at the age of constantly losing teeth so we had flippers made so they could easily pop them in and out during filming. We had six pairs of fake teeth among adults and children on this show. J.Roy Helland is Meryl’s personal makeup artist, so they worked together on that aspect of her character.
AD: The women on the show always look glamorous. But how do you make them look casual glamorous? Because they’re not always going to parties and galas and yet they still look gorgeous.
MR: Each leading lady had a personal makeup artist. They all did a fantastic job of pumping it up or down depending on what the scene/look called for. They all had their basic look for each lady, and then we built upon that: more lashes, darker liner, additional highlight and shadow, and more color!
Megan McLachlan is a freelance writer that lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has appeared in Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, The Cut, Paste, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thrillist, and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @heydudemeg.