Bringing a cast of modern-day actors into the 1970s is no small feat, but the work of Emmy-nominated makeup department head Rebecca Wachtel makes the process look seamless for the performers of Daisy Jones & The Six. She breaks down many of the steps and obstacles she had to overcome to give each character a natural look that was able to withstand the demands of their locations and performances while also building their individual personalities over the course of the series.
In our conversation, Rebecca also discusses the collaborative dynamics that underscore the creation of a period piece, as she reflects on her collaboration with the actors, directors, and other craft departments such as costume design that collaboratively craft looks that capture the essence of each character’s journey, emotions, and experiences from the 60s to the 90s. From the iconic rock star allure of Daisy Jones to the distinctive styles that define The Six, every makeup look is a conscious choice that paints a vivid portrait of the era and the world the band inhabited.
Read our full conversation below.
Welcome to Awards Radar. This is Danny Jarabek. I am here with Rebecca Wachtel. She is the Makeup Department Head for the Amazon series Daisy Jones & The Six and was recently Emmy nominated. Rebecca, thank you so much for joining me. Congratulations on your recognition and how are you feeling recently?
Rebecca: Thank you. It’s kind of surreal, but it feels good. We all worked hard on the show, so I’m happy for myself and my team.
How did you find out? What was the experience of getting the news?
Rebecca: It was early in the morning. I was flying back from Oregon. I was at the airport, and I got a text from the producer of the show just saying, we did it. I had no idea what she was talking about. I was like, “What did we do?” Then my phone was blowing up.
I love hearing the story because typically it’s just like a random text and you’re like, I don’t know what’s going on. That is the most popular response.
Rebecca: And when your frame of reference is out of that space it kind of catches you off guard.
So, you and your team were nominated for the Outstanding Period and/or Character Makeup (Non-Prosthetic) category. But just starting, how did you come to this show? Were you familiar with the source material? Was that something that you were drawing on to start to envision these characters and what you were planning to do with them?
Rebecca: I didn’t know of the book, but my sister, who is an avid reader, knew the book and told me she loves it and she’s obsessed with all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s work. I read the book right away. First off, I’ll backtrack a minute, I was on another show that Hello Sunshine was producing and Lauren [Levy], who also is producing Daisy Jones, told me about the show and she said it was about a rock band and I said, “I want to do it. Where do I sign up? How do I get the job because that’s my dream job.” Then I read the book, and anytime for me, if you’re translating a book to a TV show or a feature, I feel it’s really important to stay as true to the characters as possible. You want to honor the author and make the fans happy too. So, anything that was very true to characters in the book, I tried to stick with for the character in the series. But then you also have the actor they have cast and you need to make sure that it’s going to work with their face and their personality. So, it’s a melding of visions in that way. The only person in the series that I shifted from when I read the book was Karen’s character in the book. She is from the States and she’s more of a kind of tomboy. But then when they cast Suki [Waterhouse], they kept her from the UK and they made her a little edgier. That shifted my perspective of how to see her, to keep her a little bit edgier with a different aesthetic from the rest of the band. Also, after I read the book and was brought on, I created boards for Amazon and Hello Sunshine, and then we would talk through the twelve main characters and their whole progression from the beginning of the show through the end into the interviews. They were on board with most of it. I went and met with Denise [Wingate], the costume designer, because especially for a period piece, you need to make sure you’re working together with the hair, makeup, and costume, it all has to work to create the character and it was great. We were on the same page with so much of it already so, she was incredible to work with and that’s exciting because it was inspiring to see the clothes and it gives me a lot of inspiration for the makeup.
That’s something I wanted to ask about, in particular your relationship with other departments, specifically costume design, in really transforming these actors into these full-fledged characters. What are some of the inspirations you’re looking at from what she’s doing with these characters and vice versa that’s starting to inform how you’re fleshing out who these people are?
Rebecca: Some of it is who the character already is in the book. Eddie is very much trying to be the cool guy and follow trends. So, whatever those are, he’s going to do that which he was doing with what Denise would do with his clothing and I tried to add little elements of that with his makeup. He had the sideburns that we had made for the show, which were long, and I wanted them wispy and light. But in the 90s for the interviews, it was super trendy to have a goatee for guys at that point. We gave him one earring and the goatee and made him a super 90s cool guy.
I’m particularly interested in what you mentioned there about melding the actor with the character. When you started envisioning these boards, had the casting process been completed yet? Did you know who was going to be filling these roles when you were starting to envision these things, or were you adapting that based on who you knew was going to be cast?
Rebecca: They already had all the cast. I was brought on three months before we started shooting. I had two or three months of prep. It was really helpful because I knew who the actors were going to be playing when I was reading the book.
Got it. So you’re visualizing it along the way.
Rebecca: Yeah, which is great, because then I can envision what’s going to work for them. Warren, in the book, grows a mustache, so he had to grow a mustache for the show. I had some different ideas aesthetically about what his style of mustache should be. I think we tried 20 different styles of mustaches on him to see at the camera test what was going to work, what would sell the era, and what fit his face. In the end, we went with a fuller mustache. It was custom-made by Leslie [Devlin]. I had an amazing woman, Leslie Devlin, on my team who makes custom facial hair pieces, and she made a lot for the cast throughout the show, which was helpful. We had to have a few of Warren’s mustaches because he has a very expressive mouth and he moves around a lot, so the lace would get thin and stretched out.
Something else I’m interested in as well is with makeup design, you also have to make it flexible to the action that they are performing and hold up to the conditions. You’re shooting a lot on location, a lot of big atmospheres and environments, and they’re also performing, so they’re very active, moving around a lot. Were there any obstacles, or constraints with that?
Rebecca: This is a good thing to bring up at this point, I think one thing that people don’t realize, especially when you’re doing a period piece like this, is that you’re taking modern-day people and bringing them and turning them into somebody who has a 70s look. So, a majority of these actors have tattoos and piercings, so if you’re adding these things onto somebody for a show, people say, “Oh, wow, look at that. It’s a tattoo. It’s a piercing, whatever.” But when you’re taking it away and making skin look natural, there’s a real art to that. There was a lot of that done on the show and that had to hold up in conditions like what you’re saying. We had all kinds of conditions. Freezing, humidity, rain. We were in Greece, night, day, we had every type of weather. Sebastian [Chacon], who played Warren, is covered in tattoos, but he was always wearing no shirt with a vest that has to hold up all day. It has to look realistic. It has to look like skin. Riley [Keough] as Daisy, she has eight tattoos that I covered daily and she also has fair skin, so we tanned her and covered the tattoos. She’s completely covered in makeup from head to toe and it looks very natural. I wanted the aesthetic to look real and raw and even if the women have makeup on, it’s not perfect. It looks like a little messy and lived in. There is a real art to creating that, too, and not having everything look perfect, but having it look real and relatable. As you’re watching and they’re doing these flashbacks you feel like you’re watching a documentary or you’re in that era. I’m going to jump around here. But for Riley, a lot of creams and building up of different colors for her face and warmth and it was a lot of touchups and a lot of staying on top of, because I wanted it to look like skin and I didn’t want it to be matte and powdered and perfect.
There’s that aspect of time, too, that you allude to as well. These characters undergo a major transformation over several years. There’s also the component of the show that’s happening many years later. So, what was the effort for aging that you had to combat with and deal with that showed how these characters were changing over time?
Rebecca: Yeah, we have the element of starting in the late 60s, going all through the 70s, which, again, is some shift of time with the characters and I did that with subtle changes. With Karen, it’s the thickness or style of her cat eye, but she keeps it throughout because that’s her aesthetic. But it does change depending on where you are within that decade. For the guys we changed up some of the facial hair styles and I think when you watch the show, it’s subtle and you might not even notice and it might not stand out, which is good, it just flows. But Graham goes from having chops to having straighter sideburns. Riley, for Daisy, had a huge transition because she starts this young, fresh-faced girl, and then she goes through a drug addiction, so she has to start by looking beautiful and done, and then she slowly starts to fall apart. I showed that subtly through the process of the show looks until she overdoses. As for the aging for the 90s, they’re supposed to be in their mid to late 40s, so it’s this fine line of not being too old, but we did try everything. We tried subtle aging techniques, we tried full prosthetics. We had full custom prosthetics made and designed for five of the actors. Then we tested them, and we tested different stages of them, different pieces. In the end, we just went with wanting to do a more subtle aging process because some of the prosthetics just looked too drastic. When you’re going from these tight shots of a documentary and flashing back and forth to them, it was too jarring. I did a lot of subtle things with highlight and aging or highlight and shadow, skin texture, skin tonal changes, makeup style changes on the women, and facial hair changes on the men. We did add some stretch and stipple, which gives fine lines and wrinkles and changes the texture of the skin. Sebastian has a double chin piece. That’s the only prosthetic piece that stayed in. He’s the one who got all the stuff for some reason.
I love that. One thing that I think shines through in the way you describe it and how it comes off in the show, too, is so much of it is almost this invisibility where it’s creating this natural feeling, almost in a way that you’re not even perceiving, that there’s this dramatic head to toe makeup coverage of it all. Is there anything in particular that stands out to you? Something that you’re proud of? Something that particularly made an impact in the way it came together in the final picture?
Rebecca: Thanks. I’m glad. It’s nice to know that people are recognizing the subtlety of it because sometimes when you’re doing it, you’re not sure. Sometimes the makeup artists on my team might say, “No, leave it. Don’t touch that up. I like it a little messed up. Go against the grain. I want it to be a little messy.” I think as far as what I was happiest with, that’s so hard. It was such a huge show. There are so many different looks. I’m really happy with the overall progression of how Daisy’s progression turned out, but I think it was exciting because, in the last episode in the book, Daisy cuts all her hair off. Have you read the book? Yes. Rebecca: She cuts all her hair off, and then for whatever reason, they had tested some stuff with the hair and I guess they didn’t want to do that. It was on a night shoot one night, really late. I was super tired on a Friday. The producer came to me and said, “So do you have any ideas? We’re not going to do the haircut. What could you do for her makeup that would be enough of a change for her to be drastic for the final show?” I wrote up an idea and then Riley and I filmed it in the trailer so I could sell it, but my mind just went to those moments in Joker and I, Tonya where they’re going crazy and they’re painting their face. I knew Daisy couldn’t be super crazy. She had to be a little unhinged, but also beautiful because she’s Daisy. But she is at this point in the story where she’s just got off the phone with her mom and it was a really bad conversation and she’s taking a lot of coke and she knows she’s going to quit the band. I’m giving you all kinds of spoilers. She’s just in this messed-up headspace. Usually, her makeups are softer, especially her eye makeup. She just takes an old school eyeliner, black eyeliner, and lights it on fire because in the 70s eyeliners were not soft like they are today where they’re more smudgy. They were hard then, so if you wanted to soften them a little bit, you lit them with a lighter just a little bit and they’d soften, and you could paint with them. She lights it and she’s high, so she’s watching the flame and then it gets all messed up, so she pushes it down into an ashtray, takes her finger, and then just touches the black and starts painting her face like her war paint. She’s going out there and she’s lost her mind a little bit. She could put glitter on top of it because she never wears glitter. She and Billy kiss, and it’s glitter, so it’s going to transfer so then he gets glitter on him. They kiss more mid-show and her makeup progressively gets messed up during the show because they’re making out in the middle of the show. By the end, she’s crying, and he’s got glitter on him and runs off to find his wife but he’s still covered in some of Daisy’s glitter which symbolizes pieces of Daisy he’s still carrying with him. So that was my little poetic moment.
That’s amazing. Thank you so much for your time. Congratulations on everything, the show, and your Emmy recognition for you and your team as well. Incredibly well deserved. So much good work in the show, and I appreciate getting a chance to talk with you about it. Thank you, Rebecca. And I hope you have a great rest of your day.
Rebecca: Thanks. You too. Appreciate it.