If you’re one of the 60 million people who saw just the trailer of the new NBC hit show, This Is Us, then you’re probably just as hooked as we are about this new fall show which has blown everyone’s minds in just the first two episodes. With constant flashbacks to the 70’s back to present day, the Hair and Makeup teams have their hands very full working with an A-list cast. We sat down with Hair Department Head Michael Reitz and Makeup Department Head Zoe Hay to chat about their early thoughts on the show, how they achieved such groovy 70’s hair and what it takes to perfectly age a stunning Mandy Moore into a grandmother.
You work on an incredibly touching show that is kicking ass in ratings already. Did you have any idea it was going to have such a huge, immediate and big response?
MICHAEL REITZ: Hollywood is a strange beast, so I’d never be so bold as to predict any pilot project would be an immediate success –but what I can tell you is that while I was reading the script, I sensed something really special. The characters and story were equally intriguing and I was immediately sucked in. More than anything, I thought how in the hell are all of these people connected and then BOOM – those final few pages. After the initial episode aired I was checking out the responses on social media and all of the posts seemed to validate the way I felt – characters that resonated and an ending that was absolutely unexpected and brilliant. Kudos to creator Dan Fogelman – he is the MAN!
ZOE HAY: When we were shooting the pilot earlier in the year, the chemistry between the cast was palpable. It felt like we were watching something very special happen. The writing on this show is so incredible - I find myself laughing and crying while reading the scripts. I'm not shocked that it’s a winning combination.
What’s it like working with such an amazing cast?
MR: I hate them all. Kidding! I’ve been doing this for a long time, and if I’m going to be completely honest – the first day on set is always a bit anxiety-inducing. Doing hair is a very intimate experience - I’m literally in the client’s face and my clients happen to be celebrities. You’ve got to connect on some level to get the desired results. Creating that kind of comfortable dynamic with a star is not always easy, but I gotta say – this entire cast has been nothing but welcoming and friendly from the very first day. They make those 4:12am call times a little more tolerable.
ZH: I really can't think of a bunch of people I would rather see at 5 am in the morning. Everyone is so in touch with their characters that it makes everything about their look such a collaborative process. This makes it a rewarding process creatively. I had worked with both Sterling Brown and Mandy Moore before on different projects and was excited to be doing this project with them.
The characters Jack and Rebecca have such great feathery 70’s hair. Did you have anyone in particularly in mind as your inspiration?
MR: As far as Rebecca’s feathered hair, I was inspired by every girl I went to high school with. Such an iconic look that we literally used it to help take the viewers back to 1979. Mandy embraced the look from day one and I feel like she really owned it. And as for Jack, I definitely channeled Jeff Bridges. Men have to have a good head of hair to rock the feathered look, and Milo’s is definitely movie star quality.
The kicker at the end of 2nd episode is almost as big of a kicker as the premiere episode. Let’s talk about aging that gorgeous face of Mandy Moore. What was your plan of attack for accomplishing this look and not making her look to prosthetic-y?
ZH: I knew this was going to be a real challenge and we tested various aging makeups from extreme to very subtle. The hair, makeup and wardrobe needed to work together so all of the departments collaborated very closely to find the right look. We knew the ‘reveal’ would be shocking and I wanted the audience to dwell on the moment, not the makeup. I have a wall of pictures at my station of beautiful mature women that I used as inspiration. My mother is in her late sixties and is stunning – she has a grace about her. I really wanted to bring some of that to this makeup for Rebecca.
We ended up deciding to use 12 very small prosthetics that allowed for maximum mobility of expression. Stevie Bettles at "out of kit" sculpted the pieces for us. The aging process starts with an under painting. It's very much like a watercolor of texture and color. Bluebird Ager is used over this covering her whole face, neck and décolletage, creating a very subtle texture and fine wrinkling. Finally, the prosthetics are applie and the final wash of color and beauty makeup completes the makeup.
How important is it for you to have the right synergy with your hair counterpart, Michael Reitz and his team?
MR: When you’re sharing a trailer and working just a few yards apart from sun up to sun down, it’s not just important to have the right synergy – it’s mandatory! I call Zoe my ‘set wife’ and we have a marriage made in heaven.
ZH: This is the first time Michael and I have worked together and we just clicked right away. We often work on the actors at the same time because we have so many quick change overs and it’s so nice to just have someone you can work so easily with. They are so talented and it’s great to bounce ideas back and forth when we’re creating new looks. We share research and ideas all the time. I think it really shows on screen, too.
Can you tell us what some your kit must-haves when working on a busy show?
MR: When you’re covering several decades like ‘This Is Us’ and hair is such an important element to help viewers with the timeline – you need the best of everything in your arsenal. Oribe Texture Spray, Oribe Super Fine Spray and Oribe Royal Blowout are must haves for Mandy. I use Sumo Tek for Milo – it’s great for keeping his hair in place all day.
ZH: I don't go anywhere without my Visart eyeshadow palette. When I’m in a pinch, I use a wet brush to turn into eyeliner. Julie Hewett Cheekies and Lip Balm are staples on this show. As the last couple of shows I’ve done are set in the 1990's, I'll have to add spice lip pencil, del Rio lipstick, and use blot papers by MAC Cosmetics. I use Tarte BB creams on all of my guys as they’re natural looking and perfect for HD cameras. Skyn of Iceland Eye gels help with the early morning calls and for makeups where we take our actors back in age. My Braun Series 7, my powder shave stick and Dermalogica post shave balm are a great combo for keeping my men smooth and without razor burn. We end up covering so many tattoos everyday that I have to round out my kit with Skin Illustrators palettes.
This Is Us is on NBC Tuesday nights at 9pm PT/8pm CT.