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‘Westworld,’ ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘This Is Us’: 3 New Shows Battle for Makeup Emmy

Without "Game of Thrones" in the running, the non-prosthetic make-up race will come down to dual sci-fi universes and a time-hopping tear-jerker.



“Game of Thrones” has ruled the non-prosthetic makeup Emmy category for four out of its six seasons — winning Emmys the last two years in a row. But the race is wide open this season during its hiatus, with the nominees ranging from perennials “Vikings” (its fourth nomination) and “Penny Dreadful” (its first nomination) to newcomers “Westworld,” “Stranger Things,” and “This Is Us.”

While the Norse-driven “Vikings” (“All His Angels”) offered lots of tattoos, scars, and blood, and the supernatural “Penny Dreadful” (“Perpetual Night”) boasted a rogues gallery of scars, creepy flesh, and gore, the race will come down to sci-fi dual universes and time-hopping family drama.

“Westworld” (“The Original”)

Christien Tinsley and his team (Myriam Arougheti, Gerald Quist, Lydia Milars, Ed French) forged new territory in finding a balance between beauty, period, reality, and fantasy for characters in the western theme park and mechanistic programming center. In order to conceptualize a character (from the iconic “Vitruvian Man” to the various hosts, guests, and employees), they collaborated on the world building and backstories.

“We were tasked with showing the flawless beauty of synthetic flesh with each host in their natural nude state, while also depicting the visceral violence of Westworld in scenes like the Woodcutter Head Smash,” said Tinsley.


“Inevitably most hosts find their end in cold storage where we constructed artificial hosts and body painted hundreds of actors to resemble a state of frozen hibernation. The scope of Westworld is vast, spanning hosts, customers and Westworld employees. The world of hosts in itself ranges from cowboys to Indians, prostitutes to prairie girls, outlaws to gamblers, and the list continues on.”

Added Sue Cabral-Ebert, president of IATSE Local 706 Make-up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild: “Their job was to transport the viewer into a fantasy that could at times be jarring and difficult made you squirm a bit…. Futuristic and period work together, brutality and tenderness all wrapped together.”

“Stranger Things” ( “Chapter Six: The Monster”)

Subtle makeup applications by Myke Michaels and Teresa Vest helped create different creepy moods for the ’80s sci-fi thrill from the Duffer Brothers. Trapped in the dark, bluish Upside Down, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) gets pulled out of the portal by Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). But her makeup was quite effective in evoking terror, with just the hint of blood on her face.

Meanwhile, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), the young girl with psychokinetic powers, wanders into a grocery store, dazed and confused, and steals Eggo waffles. She’s like an alien presence to the manager and customers, with dirt on her face and a bloody nose.

Natalia Dyer in "Stranger Things"

“Stranger Things”


“To make Eleven look like she has been indoors her whole life, and look real, I had three different shades of very thin make-up,” said Michaels. “The ’80s make-up looks needed to not overpower the actors. The looks of the other worlds needed to be as human as possible but just a little bit unsettling.”

“[They] transport the viewer to an earlier time and there’s just enough character work involved to drag you down the rabbit hole without screaming makeup until it’s really necessary,” said Cabral-Ebert. “They construct the characters in such a way that the period is accurate without being comical.”

“This Is Us” (“I Call Marriage”)

Zoe Hay and her team (Heather Plott, Elizabeth Hoel-Chang, Judith Lynn Staats, and John Damiani) needed the makeup to be believable in switching back and forth between the ’80s and present day in telling the story of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and the boomerang affect on their kids. The nominated episode begins on their wedding day and flashes forward to harbingers of death and breakup.

“At our very first meeting with [showrunner] Dan Fogelman, we talked about how important it was that the makeup and hair look very real,” said Hay. “With that we are very mindful that in every decade we make the characters look real and not some heightened version of that decade. What was happening in New York was different than the looks seen in Pittsburgh. We have created a simple color palette and facial hair guidelines for each decade to make the many changes we have to do go smoothly.”

THIS IS US -- "I Call Marriage" Episode 114 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

“This Is Us”

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

For Rebecca’s journey from a beautiful young singer in the early ’70s to wife and mother of three to grandmother, it was important to create a subtle aging look for Moore using new prosthetic technology, and aging her with bluebird ager stipple and paint.

“The character work gently nudges you into a very organic feel…so the viewer knows it’s a different time period, but done with beautiful subtlety,” added Cabral-Ebert. “It makes the brain work a bit, it doesn’t slam you into a brick wall or take you out of the story.”

Will Win: “Westworld”

Could Win: “Stranger Things”

Should Win: “Westworld”

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