Awards Radar recently had the opportunity to speak with Rebecca Wachtel, the makeup department head behind the hit Amazon series Daisy Jones and the Six. Based on the bestselling novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones and the Six follows the titular rock band on their rise to stardom in the 70s LA music scene. The series stars Riley Keough, Sam Claflin, and Camila Morrone, among many other fan favorites.
Tasked with bringing the beloved book’s characters to life, Wachtel’s work displays authentic 70s looks that maintain the integrity of the characters and help to tell their stories. With a time jump to the future for an interview with older versions of the characters, Wachtel used aging techniques, changes in facial hair, and other subtle style adjustments to show the passing of time in a way that was true and natural for each character.
In this interview, she discusses her research of 70’s glam, her favorite looks for each character, and how she used makeup as a storytelling technique.
How did you get involved in doing makeup for film and TV?
Rebecca Wachtel: From a very young age, I was interested in creating characters. In high school, I worked with local theatre companies doing makeup & hair. After graduation, I pursued a makeup career in TV/Film, working my way up from small independent projects to eventually joining the union and working on more mainstream productions.
What drew you to working on Daisy Jones and the Six?
RW: I was working on another Hello Sunshine production when they told me about Daisy Jones and the Six, and I immediately wanted to be a part of it. I absolutely love music, and the 70’s music scene would be a dream to recreate. It really is close to home for me, the era I grew up in and music I adore.
Can you tell me about your research process for this project?
RW: The first thing I did was read the book! Then, I went on to create the characters, staying as true to the book’s description as possible while also taking into account the actors who were cast and what would work for them. I worked closely with Denise Wingate, the costume designer, to understand the direction she was taking and be sure the makeup worked well in conjunction.
I wanted to be sure all walks of life were represented in some fashion. I researched many varying aesthetics from early British & American punk, conservative, small town Pennsylvania, hippies & upscale artists. I did this to create a balanced feel with the cast and what the particular scenes required. The show primarily delves into the Laurel Canyon rock scene, which has a specific down-to-earth, natural feel. But we also get a peek into the NYC underground LGBTQIA+ Disco scene. I watched many documentaries from the time mainly focused on the music scene and Laurel Canyon. Also, of course, there were hours of deep dives online to find looks for specific years that would work for each character.
What are some of your favorite looks you designed for each character?
RW: Each character was unique in their style and transition process through the decades. I approached this through their personal journey and who I imagined they would have become through the decades. Daisy had the biggest transition, and I really enjoyed taking her through the subtle skin tone and makeup style changes during episode 8 and her overuse of drugs. The final show look was also fun to create for her. Working with production and Riley to show Daisy’s emotional state and shift of persona, we had her paint her face herself with remnants of a heated eyeliner using her finger. Rod was fun to create. I wanted him to be overly tanned and shiny, and a little bit smarmy. Simone was incredibly exciting to research and build a transition for, showing her journey to becoming a disco queen. The looks we created for when she is performing in the NYC clubs were fun to design. Creating the perfect mustache style for Warren took a bit of time, but when we nailed it, we knew it created a true 70’s rock star! Camila was always a natural beauty, but finding the correct levels of sickness with her age makeup to not give it away too early was an enjoyable challenge. Karen’s final show look, showing her with a heavier blue and black eye makeup, is a nod to the late 70’s, early 80’s trends shifting. I wanted to show where her character may be headed as a trend setter.
Did you use any special products or techniques while working on this project?
RW: I felt it was very important to keep the cast’s skin looking natural and dewy. I wanted to have a raw feel for the 70’s decade. We did this by mainly using light, buildable foundations with cream blush and bronzers and a light sheen on top. I stayed away from anything with shimmer, unless it was Simone’s character for her disco feel. I wanted the rest of the cast to look natural and glowing. We rarely powdered, if at all. There were also different levels of shine and sweat used for the performances, depending on what part of the show they were in. Custom lace facial hair pieces were made for some of the men. Eddie’s wispy sideburns are pieces, and so are Warren’s mustache, Tom’s sideburns and extended goatee, and Rod’s mustache and sideburns in the earlier episodes. We shaped other cast members’ facial hair to the era and character-appropriate styles. For some additional cast, we used lace pieces on as well. A lot of thought went into each character on the show, and we would have consultations with them days before they filmed to create each character individually.
How did you age the characters for their interview scenes?
RW: We aged them by adding highlights and shadows to accentuate the natural aging process, as well as adding texture and wrinkles to the face. Each character aged differently, as we went with a personal style they would have evolved into. This meant facial hair changes on the men and makeup style shifts on the women.
What is something about the makeup in this project that viewers wouldn’t know just from watching?
RW: It takes a lot of work to create a natural, no-makeup 1970’s look on modern actors. Many of the cast had tattoos that needed to be covered, as well as skin to be tanned with body makeup and sun-kissed faces to create. We added fake facial hair to several of the men, which needed to look seamless, as if it was their own. When you are on a show and have to add tattoos or create big makeups, it’s obvious what went into it to the viewer. Yet when you have to take away these things and create a natural look, if done well the viewer assumes this is just how the actors look naturally, which is not the case.
How did you use makeup as a storytelling tool in Daisy Jones and the Six?
RW: Daisy’s final “dark eye” show look has its own story. She is an emotional mess after the call with her mother. She’s taking drugs and having a breakdown. She messily paints her eyes with her fingers, creating a beautiful, imperfect mess of black. She adds gold glitter on top in tribute to her best friend, the Disco Queen Simone. Her blush is heavy, and her lip color is a deep red. This is a throw to actual styles of the time, as it’s late 70’s when these heavier looks are becoming more popular. The glitter on her face transfers to Billy when they kiss before the show, which he then carries it through until he sees Camila later, with the underlying meaning that Daisy is still part of him.
Each character’s makeup tells a story, who they were in the 70’s and their journey through stardom. We then see them briefly in the 80’s when some have taken on new identities, like Eddie with his new punk look and Karen with her 80’s-inspired heavy eye makeup, blush, and red lip. Some still hold onto their heyday style for a bit like Graham, Warren, and Billy. Then again, we see them in the 90’s and who they have become. Eddie has a very 90’s on trend goatee. Karen has embraced a more rock Debbie Harry feel. Daisy is still a bit messy as she always was with her eye makeup, but she’s adopted a more “modern” 90’s style of color tone palette and style. For her nails, she’s wearing what was then popular: squared off French tip nails. This all shows her being a bit more pulled together than she was in her youth. Graham has become a bit more clean cut and is a family man now.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
RW: We filmed in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Greece, with every kind of weather imaginable. Creating a seamless look through all of this was a challenge. Even when the cast was freezing, they are tanned and glowing. Or, when the heat and humidity felt like too much, the lace facial hair pieces stayed on and looked natural. It takes a lot of attentive and dedicated work to details from a very talented team of artists to create flawless natural makeups. I had just that– an incredible team of makeup artists helping bring the vision to life and doing an outstanding job!