Glee has fast become a cult obsession – with a large portion of the population known as “Gleeks” and proud of it. After a brief (okay, agonizingly long) hiatus for their winter vacay, the show debuted last night in the prime spot after the super bowl game. The cast took on Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Katy Perry’s California Gurls in between their usual high school drama and antics.
We caught up with Eryn Krueger Mekash, head of the makeup department for the show to get the scoop on what goes on behind the scenes during the season.
First of all, how did you get into makeup for film and tv? More specifically, how did you become a part of the Glee team?
Eryn Krueger Mekash: I’ve been doing makeup on myself since I was in 3rd grade! I’ve always made my own Halloween costumes, since I was a little girl. I took art classes all through school and when I went to The Thing and American Werewolf In London for a drive-in double feauture I knew that’s what I wanted to do. During college, I went to a makeup effects school on the weekends, and I applied to lots of effects shops around town that summer of 1986 – the height of the makeup effects era – and John Buechler of MMI took pity on me and gave me a job. I was thrilled to make $110 a week working 50 hours – it was my first full time job and I was 18 – I was making my dream come true!
Many years later, my top makeup friend James Mackinnon did a pilot called Nip/Tuck for Ryan Murphy. James asked me to be his second in command and take over the show when he went back to his other show Alias. I stayed on Nip/Tuck with Stephanie Fowler as my second for the next 6 seasons. I also did Ryan’s films Running With Scissors and Eat, Pray, Love. He brought me on Glee at the end of Nip/Tuck. Ryan is an incredibly dedicated admirer of makeup, hair and costumes and I am very grateful to have worked for such an appreciative boss for the past 8 years.
That’s an incredible journey! What are some of your favorite products to use on set?
EKM: We love many products- we have ADD when it comes to makeup. Kelley Mitchell is my key and Jen Greenberg is my third. We use Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water Cloths, Moisture Foundation and Oriental Plants Skin Lotion Spray quite a bit. We also love Makeup Forever HDfoundation Matte Velvet Foundation and Acqua Cremes for staying power. MAC Lip Glasses, Stila Convertible Color, Julie Hewett Cheekies and her Kiki lipstick. Votre Vu’s groovy duette which is a lip balm in the lid and almond hand cream in the tube. La Mer moisture cream and powders, Jao hand sanitizer, the list goes on and on…
Does all of the dancing and singing on set affect what makeup you choose?
EKM: Absolutely. We use Colorscience Sunforgettable Powders which are waterproof on the guys so we don’t need to touch up the makeup as much. We still need to maintain the perspiration on everyone – we carry an arsenal of hand fans. Makeup Forever Mist and Fix, Stila Convertible colors (the cream blushes stay better), primers help to keep everything in place, but really it’s a constant struggle. You are always on your toes.
Most of the actors on Glee are in their 20′s, though they’re playing high schoolers on TV. How do you keep them looking young and age appropriate for the show?
EKM: We keep everything very bright cheeks and glossy lips. I like to see skin through the foundation, even though we warm them up for camera. Our lighting tends to be cool tones so I don’t want all the blues and pinks showing through too much so we knock that down and bring up the warmth. Healthy looking skin is an important part of the youthful look – and not too much powder, not heavy foundation.
How do the different characters personalities affect their overall makeup look?
EKM: Everyone has a different look. The Cheerios are more Stepford Wifesy – more glamour and perfection. Mercedes’ makeup lends to the jewel tones because her character is very full of life and sparkly. Rachel’s look is subdued and clean to emphasize her controlled lifestyle. Tina is outrageous because of her punk/goth influences. Emma started as wide-eyed innocence but now that she’s married she has a “French” influence and we do Sue Sylvester in all of her glory – Jane is a beautiful woman and her makeup is a direct contrast to Sue’s witty bitterness. Ryan Murphy has definite ideas for each character, so we start with his inspirations first. I usually build off what he initially visualizes and come to a happy agreement.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of working on the Glee set?
EKM: My favorite parts are character development and creating all of our theme shows. Also, I’m working with longtime friends – a large percentage of the crew is from Nip/Tuck. My least favorite part is the long hours – sometimes you can barely function by Thursday. It’s like shooting a film you haven’t prepped, a Broadway show, and three music videos all rolled up in one week. Rewarding, yes, but Glee is a total brain-fryer.
Sounds like fashion week all season long! What challenges are presented working on a TV set with multiple characters vs. working on traditional photo shoots or fashion shows?
EKM: It’s a completely different situation and really can’t be compared. I have mostly done film – Glee in itself is much harder, even than the war films I have done. There is hardly a moments rest. Even the photoshoots for Glee are completely different than regular photoshoots. The main difference is that we get 20 cast members ready through makeup, hair and wardrobe as quickly as possible. We rarely have any prep time and the vast amount of work and having to be “on” all the time is more challenging than anything I’ve ever done. I constantly hear from guest makeup artists that come in to help us out, “I don’t know how you do it. I could never do this show full time.” I think when you are doing photoshoots and fashion shows you have more design time, maybe more energy expended for a shorter period of time. We are constantly problem-solving for 16 hours a day.
If we looked in your personal makeup bags, what would we find?
EKM: Haha! I have a tiny makeup bag and it contains an almost empty Cle De Peau concealer, a Sugar lip balm, a dual ended Urban Decay pencil in black and brown and a very worn down Chanel taupe eyebrow pencil. The makeup goes on at stoplights, unfortunately. When I dress up, I will sit with a mirror at my dining room table and do a full beat-down beauty makeup for 45 minutes on myself. Other than that, I leave glamour to the people in front of the cameras.
And finally, as a viewer, who is your favorite character on the show?
EKM: It’s a hard decision – I love all of them. I think that Kurt Hummel is probably my child, though.