The transformation of Emmy Rossum into billboard icon, Angelyne, is one of the most impressive makeup, prosthetic, and hairstyling combinations of the entire television season. Any time we see a famous person literally turn into someone else recognizable, it garners headlines and chatter on social media, but something feels different about Emmy’s respectful tribute to Angelyne. She isn’t simply impersonating or embodying Angelyne. With the help of Kate Biscoe, David Williams, Vincent Van Dyke, and Kimi Messina, Rossum fully becomes the Queen of Los Angeles.
Kate Biscoe has won an Oscar for Vice and 2 Emmys for Behind the Candelabra, and she has worked on films like Factory Girl and Saving Mr. Banks. Needless to say, she knows a thing or two about using makeup to transform an actor into a real person. Along with David Williams, the pair was eager to dive into this rad, colorful time period. Williams came onto the project after the production was shut down from the coronavirus pandemic (he also worked on Pam & Tommy this season. Williams has worked on Feud: Bette and Joan andDocumentary Now!, and he has even run into the real Angelyne several times over the years (I would die…)
Awards Daily: Pink is obviously a big Angelyne color. How did you want that to compliment Emmy’s face? With so much warmth-especially coming off of Danny Glicker’s costumes, did you try to offset that warmth in any particular looks?
Kate Biscoe: Pretty much all of Emmy’s makeup choices (brow shape, eyeshadow colors, eyeliner style, lip shape/color, skin-tone, and blush) were taken directly from research photos of Angelyne. It seemed that Angelyne would do the same makeup for a block of years, then change to a different style for another block of years— no matter what she was wearing. For example, in the mid to late 80’s, she always wore solid purple eyeshadow with matte white on her brow bone and dark red lips. In 2015 to 2019, she consistently wore matte hot pink eyeshadow and light pink lips lined in burgundy pencil.
Emmy’s own skin was always covered either by prosthetics or neutralized with foundation so there was never an intent to chose colors to compliment Emmy’s face- it was always about exacting the essence of Angelyne. The only thing color-wise that we would match to the costume was the nail color, but even this was mostly dictated by what we found in research photos.
AD: Would you consider Angelyne’s makeup to be a mask?
KB: This is a great question and one that I thought about when designing the makeup. I would absolutely not consider Angelyne’s makeup to be a mask any more than I would think of her hair as a hat or her clothes as armor. I believe Angelyne’s makeup is intrinsically part of her–it is inextricable and indelible. In our show, Angelyne is never shown without makeup, and for a good reason. To have done so would have changed the narrative. Angelyne is always in control. I think you can compare it to her never taking her clothes off. As she tells Hugh Hefner ‘Don’t you love the not knowing?’ That way, ‘I can be whoever, whatever, or however you want me to be.’
AD: What about this time period of makeup–textures or trends–were you excited to feature?
KB: In terms of palettes of colors, David and I kept the rest of the female cast uniformly close to the trends of the decades, so that Angelyne would always be a different and stand out. Her lips were bright red in the 70’s when everyone else was in earth tones. She wore matte purple eyeshadow in the 80’s when everyone else wore frost. In the contemporary years, she wears that iconic hot pink eyeshadow that I can’t remember anyone else ever having.
DW: I have been fortunate to be a part of the makeup teams and run as Department Head of many character and period projects in my career. I love to find the history behind the influences of a period. Societal morays, maladies and economics dictate significant influences. Los Angeles-centric dynamics heavily influenced Angelyne. I’m old enough to have experienced several of those decades in LA.
AD: When we see Angelyne as her younger self, what measures did you take to show a fresher face?
KB: We changed Emmy’s skin tone to be much warmer and added tons of freckles on her face and arms to give the appearance of no makeup–even though Emmy is never without prosthetics!
We used little eye makeup, colored Emmy’s eyebrows a natural red and used a sheer lip color to keep as close to the archival photos as possible. [We didn’t want to] fall into the hackneyed visual tropes of false lashes, winged-out eyeliner and bold brows of the 1960’s. Also, all this eye makeup would have made her look older. Thankfully, Emmy takes such good care of her skin, she can believably pull off playing 17 years old.
We needed to have such a contrast in skin tones and textures on all the actors in order to indicate the span of decades to the audience. Don’t forget–in the talking head interview scenes, she and Danny (Michael Angarano’s character) are supposed to be in their early 70’s However, I allege that Angelyne may have had some augmentation and rejuvenation procedures along the way.
AD: The final look we see Emmy Rossum in is beautifully otherworldly. Do you think that’s how Angelyne saw herself? Is that another illusion for us? Since that look is so perfect, how hard was it to nail it?
DW: I’ve been fortunate to have run into her on a few occasions over the years. I’m not sure how Angelyne see herself, but she has always been a symbol to many of us Angelenos that dreams can come true in the City of Angels. For a kid who grew up in West Virginia on the banks of the Ohio River; I often pinch myself that I get to be a part of the fabric that makes the colorful tapestry of Hollywood.
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Even though we have seen Rossum throughout her career, she has never had the curves of Angelyne. Who has except the real icon, if you think about it. Prosthetics designer, Vincent Van Dyke, revealed just how Rossum was never seen without a ton of prosthetics all over her body, and he details how someone like Michael Angarano can go from his early twenties to his seventies with the aid of Van Dyke’s prosthetics. With so much on these actors’ bodies, you would think you could see a crease or heaviness on the face. It’s seamless work.
Awards Daily: The breast plate is a marvel. I feel like I’ve seen them on so many drag queens, and they never look as flawless as this. How difficult was it to find the right fit for Emmy’s frame so it allowed her to move? Is there specific glue that was used?
Vincent Van Dyke: The breast prosthetics–which there are 3 versions of–are all custom made for Emmy. It all starts with lifecasts basically from the waist up to reproduce perfect plaster representations of her down to every pore. Once we have those, we sculpt by hand all the prosthetic elements. The breasts are extremely tricky, because the blend right below the clavicle. It’s in a very obvious place, and there is nothing to help hide or disguise that. Each piece has to have fine edges that can be blended into the skin as flawlessly as possible. Because of the size, weight was a concern from the jump, so I designed them with internal foam inserts to reduce the weight of the silicone and help them move with her as best as possible. All of her prosthetics are glued with silicone medical adhesives.
AD: Michael Angarano’s interview look shocked me, especially because he is so young (maybe I just know him too well from Will & Grace). Tell me about how many prosthetics he has on, especially because he is one of the youngest members of the cast.
VVD: Michael’s old age look was quite a challenge, but he is fully covered. [He is] wearing a total of 12 silicone overlapping prosthetics: hands, front of neck, back of neck, chin/lower lip, upper lip, cheeks, ear lobes, a forehead, and a top of head piece. He is finished off with a hand tied lace wig and brows. The only part that’s him is his nose. The challenge here is because he is so youthful, we do not want to lose his likeness. Often when someone is totally covered, you cannot tell it is them anymore, so we were very conscious in the sculptural process to maintain that he was recognizable and felt as though it was naturally him aged.
AD: What prosthetics might surprise people in terms of something that is applied to a character’s face that we can’t see?
VVD: I think one of my favorites of the show is our Hugh Hefner likeness on Toby Huss. Toby was a great candidate for this, and he really embodied Heff wonderfully. But we needed to add a few subtle pieces to really help push this look. He wears a nose piece, chin, and a piece in between his brows. They are literally right down the middle of his face, so it had to be very precise. I think most may not notice that this is a prosthetic makeup. This is paired with a wonderful wig to help complete his look.
AD: There are so many pieces throughout the entire show (both on Rossum and the individuals in the interview portion). Which look are you most proud of?
VVD: That’s a tough question, but, as a whole, I am extremely proud of all of the work we collectively accomplished here. This was a dream job, encompassing so many things that get me excited but also scare me. This type of work is the most challenging in my opinion, so it makes you push yourself. Working with such amazingly talented people by my side to help push collectively and make something special. So it’s hard to single any one makeup out on this–it marks one of my favorite projects to date.
The saying goes, ‘The higher the hair, the closer to Jesus,’ but I think we should change it to ‘The blonder and higher the hair, the closer we get to Angelyne.’ Like Williams, Hair department lead, Kimi Messina was aware of Angelyne’s impact, and she was ecstatic to join the team. In addition to discussing how the team transformed Rossum to show the origin of Angelyne, I was most curious about the follicle transformation of Hamish Linklater’s Rick Krause. Over the years, he goes from precise bowl cut to shaggy curtains even though his love of Angelyne never wanes.
Awards Daily: For combining any wigs, how difficult was it to match the shades of blonde?
Kimi Messina: Our wigmaker, Rob Pickens, did such a gorgeous job on making and coloring the wigs, and he and Martin Samuel designed the wigs together. They came up with matching the blonde hair color and adding more platinum color through the sequence of years in a few of the wigs.
AD: Tell me everything about the journey of Rick Krause. I love seeing him younger in that yellow outfit with an almost Dorothy Hamill bob and later in life his hair is longer.
KM: I love this look so much on Rick. Originally, before the COVID shut down, Rick was a different actor, and we used his own hair, cutting and coloring his hair into the bowl cut. We had shot a few scenes with him and then we were shut down due to [the pandemic]. After returning to complete the show, the original Rick was no longer available. When Hamish [Linklater] was cast, he was still on Gaslit, and we couldn’t use his hair, so we found a wig tried it on him, and it worked for him. He liked it, but he wanted to leave it a lot longer than any of the references showed him in. The sell of that look is really going for a shorter bowl cut from the 80’s. By the time we shot him in that look, we cut it shorter twice. Finally, by the third time, it really got the length that just made that character like his actual references we had from all the research.
The longer aged hair look had a little more texture to it and a lighter hair color than the actual references of Rick. However, that longer color and texture worked very well for the Rick character. Hamish really worked both of the looks to create and make the Rick character believable.
AD: In the final episode we see Angelyne as a younger woman, and Emmy looks so gorgeous in that reddish hue. In a show that talks a lot about artifice and creating oneself, how did you want to strip that all away when there is almost no footage of Angelyne at that age?
KM: The few references we had of Rachel at that age was used to create the color and style from the photo references. And from there introduced the youthful look with a cohesive storyline of believable possibility.
AD: What do you like about hair at this time period? I feel like this era is quite beloved but sometimes borders on parody, so how do you reel that in to create something authentic?
KM: I grew up in Wheatridge, Colorado, a small town outside of Denver, and my older brother, Dino, was a hairdresser. I worked in his salon as a receptionist after school and on Saturdays from the late 70’s. I became a hairdresser in the early 80’s, and I was inspired by the Angelyne style hair. I loved it back then and continue to love that style today.
When Martin Samuel asked me to do the show, I was more than thrilled. He created a smoother look than Angelyne’s actual references, and I continued in that direction depending on the part of the story line. For instance, the scene with the Angelyne lookalike contest, Emmy and I discussed making that look very large and different than her usual Earthgirl look–I loved that look! And then for the dance sequence at the party, we wanted to simulate that look a bit with the Billboard hair look with a lot of tease and more curl.
Emmy liked the idea of even bigger for the Playboy Mansion scene with Hugh Hefner, so I added another wig to the existing wig and redesigned the look to be quite large. At the last minute, I decided it was too big, so I quickly downsized the look but continued a large look that was a little different than the other two.
AD: What kind of products do you think Angelyne used on her hair?
KM: For the bleach color a box at Riteaid. Root lift, sugar water in a spray bottle. For styling, Sebastain Strong Hold Mousse and for final styling, Sebastain Spritz Forte. For the last round of hairspray, Aqua Net. These are all the products from the 80’s that I used to create Angelyne type and style of hair, so I knew what was available for her personal use.
Angelyne is streaming now on Peacock.