How ‘The Crown,’ ‘SNL’ Hair and Makeup Teams Transform Actors Into Real-Life People

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Saturday Night Live (NBC)

SNL creator Lorne Michaels “doesn’t want us to lose the castmember,” says makeup department head and designer Louie Zakarian of the series’ approach to creating caricatures of present-day political figures. “We want to capture features of the person we’re doing a caricature of, but we still have to see that it’s, you know, Kate McKinnon as Rudy Giuliani. That’s the fine line we end up walking every week.”

The team used prosthetics to transform McKinnon. “We started out by receding her hairline, giving her nasolabial folds and some jowls to age her,” Zakarian explains. She also wore a wig to complete the look, which needed to be a “quick change” due to the show’s live broadcast. “That’s one of the things we always have to keep in mind when we’re creating these,” Zakarian says. “We can’t go crazy doing all this stuff — we’ve also got to be able to get them out of it.”

Aidy Bryant, meanwhile, needed to become Sen. Ted Cruz. “That was a great wig look,” says Jodi Mancuso, a designer and head of the show’s hair department. “You can’t beat a slick side mullet.” Zakarian adds that Bryant “also had that fun-filled beard that Ted Cruz was rocking. Most of the beards we have are built for the guys. So we had to make some modifications to it.”

Zakarian points out that another tricky task was turning Alex Moffat into President Biden after he inherited the role from Jim Carrey. “He really knocked it out of the park,” Zakarian says of Moffat. “We built a set of dentures for him and made him balder and made a nose tip for him to give him a little bit of that Biden-type nose.” Makeup also aged the actor.

Whether it’s the president or any other public figure, the SNL team always turns to the news to stay on top of a subject’s most current look.

“I will double-check to make sure that nothing crazy has changed,” Mancuso says. “And if [the look] has, sometimes we will get approval to change it, or we leave it just because the audience is used to [it].”

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Saturday Night Live’s hair and makeup teams comes up with creative methods to turn cast members into real-life politicians; team embraces absurdity.
Courtesy of Will Heath/NBC (3)

The Crown (Netflix) 

Diana’s iconic haircut was a key to transforming Emmy nominee Emma Corrin into the princess and involved six different wigs during the course of the season, which covers roughly 12 years. “We [created] a shape initially that was quite round, very natural and very soft, because we felt like that would emphasize Emma’s youth and the vulnerable person who Charles first meets,” explains hair and makeup designer Cate Hall. “As she becomes more media-worn, we wanted the hair to look more processed. We were dying the roots to give it some shadow and highlighting it more and more. The Princess of Wales was using those styling techniques as a kind of armor against the media. We wanted her to look ever more manufactured, and we felt it really helped to age Emma through the series.” 

Hall was guided by a similar principle for the makeup, keeping the shapes round and soft in Diana’s earlier years. “Because Emma has such great skin, we didn’t use any foundation at the beginning. Just from my experience, I think you can really age yourself using beauty makeup. And then we just piled on more and more makeup as the time progressed,” Hall explains, adding that she relied on shimmery, cool tones that were popular in the ’80s. “From our research, we knew that Diana used more and more of that iconic blue the more vulnerable she felt. We picked moments to signify Diana’s vulnerability by using that blue eyeliner.” 

In contrast, Charles, played by Emmy nominee Josh O’Connor (pictured, far left), has kept a fairly consistent look. “Like so many members of the royal family, he has had the same hairstyle for decades,” Hall notes, adding that it makes him recognizable. “It’s this very exaggerated, left-head parting that is so deep, going all the way to the crown of his head. That was placed with a tape measure so that it was always precise. We didn’t have a wig for Josh because he has such glorious  hair.”

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