If working with the President of the United States and a TOP CIA Analyst sounds intimidating, well, it probably is for most people. But not for Katherine Rees (Hair Department Head) and Carmé Tenuta (Makeup Department Head). They work on the new hit show, NBC’s State of Affairs, starring Katherine Heigl and Alfre Woodard. Having worked on shows together in the past, these two have a solid system down for running their departments. They credit ESP-like communication, getting their actors in and out of their chairs in a flash and making sure a sense of humor is still ever-present for keeping them sane. We got the gossip on why they work so well together, how they prep for a show (and keep up with the fast pace of production) and how they made their journey into the land of TV and Film.
You’ve worked with each other in the past. What’s it like working together again on State of Affairs?
Rees: One of the wonderful things about our business is that we get to work with extremely talented people. The makeup trailer is a confined space where we work together under extreme time constraints, and sometimes working on the same person at the same time. Since Carmé and I worked together before, we have developed shorthand to communicate what needs to happen for us both to achieve our objective. It is our job to get the actors in and out of the trailer as quickly as possible looking amazing and feeling confident in their look. Carmé is the consummate professional, and working with her is a pleasure.
Tenuta: It's great working with Katherine Reese! First and foremost, Katherine is very professional and organized which, for me, is important - it can make or break a makeup and hair department. It's important to have balance and harmony with the two departments or it will throw the flow off-course. At the appropriate times, some good humor is much-needed in a show such as State Of Affairs which can get very tense at times. You have to keep it real and know when that humor is appropriate and appreciated. Katherine's timing is right-on. We work well together, especially having to double-team with Katie Heigl - meaning we are both working at the same time, doing makeup and hair to ensure Katie is camera-ready and out of our chair… plus Katie doesn't like to sit very long being fussed with. Can't say that I blame her.
What do you love about working on this new show with heavy hitters such as Katherine Heigl and Alfre Woodard?
Rees: First of all, it is such an honor to be working on this show. The chemistry between Katherine and Alfre is amazing. When you put such talented women together portraying powerful characters, the show takes on a life of its own. Katherine channels her character with minute detail. The hairstyles her character would wear are one element in character development and Alfre has a clear vision about how the ruler of the free world would choose to present herself. So as long as I can realize the vision of the actors and producers, I feel like I have done my job well. Tenuta: I love everything about this show. Working with Katie Heigl has definitely been one of the highlights of my career. She is truly a dream in so many ways. I can paint that face all day every day. She is pleasant, so professional, no drama and always on point – just truly a dream. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to be working with her on such a dynamic show. Alfre has her own people, however having Alfre grace our show with her presence and talent makes for the perfect spice and blend a show needs.
This show is full of action and drama and even in the first episode - a lot of hair styles for Katherine Heigl. How do you keep up with the intensity of the show?
Rees: The pilot episode was shot on the East Coast and I did not join the team of State of Affairs until it was picked up and shooting here in LA. We are on an eight-day shooting schedule and we do get advance scripts. That way we can determine in advance all the elements that are necessary for each episode. Things that are taken into consideration are the number of actors and backgrounds, what stunt doubles are going to be needed and how many different looks are going to be needed per episode. In this show, we also have story lines that take us to a variety of other countries, so research to determine the right look for those scenes is important.
On any given day of shooting, I might have to change Katherine’s hair several times to match different days of the episode. It is important to use products that will maintain the integrity of the hairstyle and still be workable. We work very closely with makeup, costume and production so that things go as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.
In regard to how I keep pace with the show, I wanted to acknowledge that it is a whole trailer full of people getting the job done. In preparing for the show, I have a team of amazing hairstylists to work with me to help get everyone ready for camera. Kathleen Leonard is my right hand and helps me make sure that everyone is trimmed and styled to perfection and Renia Green ensures that Alfre is beautiful and ready to be the leader of the free world.
A lot of people don’t realize all the work and prepping that is involved with working on a show. Can you describe the process you go through when working on a brand new show and setting up your makeup department?
Tenuta: It starts with reading the script, breaking down the scenes, knowing what actors are working and the scenes they’re working on. Also, knowing if they’re working with prosthetics, if there is facial hair, do we have to have tattoos made? And which actor is having that prosthetic or tattoo. Then…do we need to have a cast made? Do I need to hire special effects artists? It’s extremely involved. I always have to be well-stocked with all of my supplies and expendables needed for the show, making sure that Katie has what she needs as well as all cast members.
What is most important [for the show] is - your team! Having a strong support system. You’re only as good as your team. They are like your veins. Blood cannot flow without them and a show cannot flow without a strong team. I have some of the industry's best working with me. Alexis Walker is my assistant department head. I am so grateful to have her!
You’ve worked on hit shows in the past such as “Alias”, “Mad Men” and “True Blood”. Can you describe one of your most challenging hair moments - or a moment that you’re most proud of?
Rees: Honestly, I have to admit that I have just been so fortunate. I have had the opportunity to work on such a diverse array of projects. Every show I have worked on has had some element that I have been proud to be a part of. One example would be my time working on season five of True Blood. Kristin Bauer van Straten has this amazing hair, and her character was all about hair, make-up and wardrobe. For her character, we were given free reign to create a new look for every episode. We took her look to the limit, pushing the envelope that is normally seen in episodic television. Now that was really fun.
Where did you get your training/schooling?
Tenuta: Actually at the ripe age of 13, my mom's friend came over with this beautiful white case and as she opened it, I looked inside. It was as though I had seen a treasure chest. It was filled with cosmetics and called Fashion Two Twenty. I said I wanted one and she said save your money then you can have your own. Well I did, I saved $125. When I received my kit, I soon started teaching my mom’s friends how to apply their makeup and of course they bought the products from me. Who knew I would grow up to be a professional Hollywood makeup artist - I sure didn't!
I've always dabbled in makeup throughout the years as I was growing up not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up. It just came natural to me. I went to Cosmetology school because I wanted to learn and get the education but never had the desire to be a hairdresser. I also dabbled in modeling a bit. When I moved to LA in the early 80's, still not knowing what I wanted to be, I was modeling and doing fashion shows. All the models would want me to do their makeup. They would line up to get their makeup done and one day it hit me. I knew I wanted to be a makeup artist! I 'm going to be the best that I can be and work with the best! And, now here I am, 30 plus years later! I have had a remarkable career and it’s still going strong working with the best in our industry. I am truly blessed and grateful!
How did you get your first break in the beauty industry?
Rees: My background is a solid ten-year stretch of salon work. My life took a different path when I shifted my focus to the film industry. My first projects were feature films and (I’m dating myself here) I had the opportunity to work on the MGM blockbuster Stargate with Kurt Russell and James Spader. That project was the one that garnered me my union status. I did come into this business a bit later than many, but I had a strong background because of all my salon experience. Since then I have worked on numerous films and television productions.
Tenuta: When it finally hit me that I wanted to be a makeup artist, I started doing headshots for models and photo shoots just for the tearsheets and experience… basically paying my dues. One day, I was at a social gathering and met this man and his wife. We were chatting - he was a record exec at Motown. They asked me what I did and I told them I was a makeup artist. Then he said, “Oh, wanna do a music video in a few weeks? Of course I said yes. (BTW this is when MTV was just born and music videos as well) The music video was Lionel Richie's “All Night Long” and all night long it was. I did all the dancers. I thought to myself, "I have arrived!!!!"
From there I went on to be a personal makeup artist to some of Motown's greatest acts such as Smokey Robinson, Rick James, The Temptations and The Four Tops for several years. At that same time, a friend who was also a makeup artist and was Michael Jackson's makeup artist (Karen Faye) connected me with the Jacksons. I began to work with them as their personal makeup artist on the Pepsi commercial and continued with them for the next ten years. They basically kicked off my career. I then broke into film and television and started working with Cheryl Ladd as her personal makeup artist. And to this day I still am! She is one of my best and dearest friends and my daughter’s Godmother. So basically readers: Dream it, believe it, receive it! Again, I am so grateful!
What are some of the staple hair products we’d find in your set bag?
Rees: Every actor’s hair is different and so I am always adjusting the products that I use to suit those individual hair needs and the demands of the hairstyles the projects call for. There are certain products that I consider my staples; my go to products that are always in my set kit. They are White Sands Liquid Texture, Elnett Hair Spray, Oribe Texture Spray and Klorane Dry Shampoo. I also try new products to experiment with and this way I find new products that I fall in love with. Some of my current new faves are Bumble and Bumble Brilliantine, Unite Second Day Hair and Schwarztkopf Hair Dust. The actors I work with are also a great resource for products. I love using BandB Brilliantine on Katherine Heigl when she has a sexy down look.
Tenuta: beautyblender (must have), Diorskin Poudre Libre, MAC Blot Film, MAC Matte Creme Matifiante, Kiehl’s Lip Balm, EO Hand Sanitizing Gel in Lavender, Colorscience Mineral corrector Palette (a must have), Chanel Soleil Tan De Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base (for shading – a must have), Chanel Inimitable Intense Mascara, Stila Convertible Color cream blush in Peony, Make Up For Ever HD Foundation, Urban Decay Naked Ultra Nourishing Lipgloss and Anastasia Beverly Hills Perfect Brow Pencil.
Find out what some of the cast members said about working with Katherine and Carmé.
“Carmé and Katherine have been with me and my character Charleston, for the past 6 months and it’s been an absolute joy for me to collaborate with them on bringing Charlie's look to life! They understand what the character needs to look like in each given situation and have helped shape each look in a way that feels honest, believable and fresh! These two ladies make me look good even when we’re starting work at 5 or 6am which is no small feat! It's been a true pleasure having them with me for State of Affairs, I could not be Charleston without them!"
-Katherine Heigl (Charleston Tucker)
“Katherine and Carmé bring more than just their expertise to our set. They both (from first thing in the morning until late at night) bring a positive, caring and joyful energy every single day. I've known from day one that I was in good hands and would never need to worry with these two AMAZINGLY talented women taking care of my hair and makeup.”
-Adam Kaufman (Lucas Newsome)
"Katherine and Carmé's work is a reflection of their own personalities: vibrant, detail-driven, and flat-out beautiful. They are both absolute treasures, and for me, on my first series ever, they were instrumental in helping make my experience the joy it was. I love them both dearly."
-Cliff Chamberlain (Kurt Tannen)