March 26th, 2014
Here at Warpaint we get our interview inspiration from across the disciplines: film, theatre, exhibitions, print and television. After tuning in to watch Mr Selfridge for two seasons on Sunday nights and being inspired by the ‘barely there yet perfect under studio lights period looks’, this week we talk to the show’s Head Make-up and Hair Designer, Konnie Daniel.
Konnie Daniel is a name to watch. From dailies on films such as Pirates of the Caribbean and 28 Weeks Later, via the pilot of Game of Thrones she’s shown her creative talents as Hair and Make-up Designer on the first two series of Mr Selfridge. Konnie tells Warpaint how she is still learning after all this time.
WP: What was your first make-up job? What did you learn from this?
KD: I am German, so that’s my first language and I couldn’t speak any English when I came. On my first job, I remember, I had to read the script so many times and didn’t know all the little words. There was supposed to be a little lizard on the visor of the car and I didn’t know what a lizard was or a visor. When I figured it out, I ended up putting the heater on to warm up the visor so that the lizard would stay on it and I had to stand there all day. It was in a cold warehouse somewhere – the glamorous things we do in our job.
In the ‘90s I worked for the film maker, Derek Jarman. I came here and did a short film and they needed a hair person and one of my friends recommended me and that’s how I got into that. From there I did lots of short films – one after the other – just to learn the language as well.
I did a lot of short films at the beginning of my career; with the students at the Royal College of Art and also at the National Film School. I learned everything – about continuity, how the camera and lighting work, translating scripts into a make-up look, costume stuff, everything. I’ve worked on period dramas, contemporary, medieval and it works to hone your skills for each era.
There was one director who used to do everything like the Silent Movies in black and white – very theatrical, another liked the Dogma films, to work in documentary form – everything had to look realistic, no make-up on, messy hair and so on, and then I made a whole career out of it. My first big feature film was with Michael Winterbottom in the late ‘90s Wonderland.
I still love learning and did a short film before Xmas – I still love them and still do them. It was set in an Orthodox Jewish community which is an interesting subject because it has a certain look that you have to create. It was an English actor that I had to transform and you have to do so much hair on a job like that. You have to do the beards, sideburns. The girls have to wear a wig because when they are married nobody else should see their hair so it is shaved. All these ladies have wigs on and all have the same hair do. That was quite exciting to do.
WP: Was there a MUA you have met in your career who inspired your work?
KD: I couldn’t get a job as an assistant with anyone, all the ones I wrote to never replied, so I learned everything by trial and error. The big names who inspired me at the time were Sarah Monzani, Jenny Shircore, Peter King and Peter Owen.
I’ve met them all subsequently from afar. Jenny I’ve met in the wig store, she’s amazing. Sarah Monzani, I worked dailies on Jack and the Giant Killer and she was the designer. Peter King – I worked dailies on Pirates and saw him from afar too.
I wasn’t taught by anyone, as such. In the ‘90s it was learning by doing it, making mistakes and finding ways of creating things that work.
WP: What make-up style is your favourite to do? SFX, Contemporary or Period?
I like a little bit of a challenge. For instance, I did a couple of days on Moby Dick and we needed to create the dirty look of the whalers, using layering to build up the grime and filth on the skin.
WP: You do the hair and make-up for Mr Selfridge. How did you go about developing the correct make-up looks for the times?
KD: On Mr Selfridge we wanted to create a certain look, so we’re not absolutely chronologically factual. We work as a team with the costume and lighting departments to make everything fit together well.
With Victor Colleano we had to darken his hair because he was supposed to be a Belgian refugee. Really he’s a blond Englishman who spends his time surfing and the sun bleached his hair.
In the beginning we put colour mousse in, but it was such a hot summer last year and he was sweating so much in the woollen clothing that he had to wear. We stopped using the mousse at that point, it was running down his face.
It’s a long job to work on, filming from April to October with one month prep beforehand, then a 6 month shoot. Series 3 is starting to prep now.
WP: Where do your get your inspiration for the period? What was the look from the time?
KD: Hair and make-up was inspired by the dreamy portraits of the early-20th-century Italian painter Giovanni Boldini, who specialised in society figures, aristocratic ladies and popular cultural figures of the day. I looked at all period Edwardian films that I could find, as well as original paintings from the time. The films Room with a View and House of Mirth gave me a frame of reference, they’re beautiful crafted. These two films made me highly delighted because the Edwardian period was quite short and is often rare to find something from that time. There’s lots of Victorian, Dickens, Austen, but not much from the Edwardian time, which is strange because the world was changing rapidly during that period. So many inventions were appearing – telephones, aeroplanes, cars, technology – and people’s lives were transforming and a new era was dawning. Women were able to have jobs and much more freedom in what they did. They could walk on their own down the street, work in shops, chose their life partners. I was in general interested in that period. The world changed forever.
In Season One it was much more restricted in terms of make-up and the hair was always up. Women would never go out of the house without their hair up and we reflected this. We are very aware of that and how each characters hair would look according to their wealth status, or even that they might be trying to emulate a wealthy woman’s hair to look like they come from a higher status background. By the second season, time was moving on and many more different influences came in. Oxford Street represents high end fashion and is always leading the way. Kitty is always one step ahead and Delphine is Bohemian. I got emails asking why her hair was down, and I replied explaining my thoughts on these lines.
The look you create on those characters initially influences how they will look for the rest of the season and the longevity of the show. For example Delphine Day, she works more within the entertainment industry and is an independent woman of the time, so her make-up is stronger almost like a mask to protect herself. This is also because she owns a nightclub and the lighting is darker meaning the make-up needs to be stronger. Both of those filming and story decisions lend themselves to the final look. I take from my own experience and modelled her a little on Alexis Carrington from Dynasty, with the darker eye and bolder lip than most other characters.
Rose is traditional, even though she relatively modern. When her husband is unfaithful, she’d never leave him. Delphine would. I wanted to show that through her make-up and hair.
As for the girls on the shop floor, silent movie stars had exploded into popular consciousness around 1910 and girls like Kitty would have wanted to emulate them. Jessie adores Kitty and wants to copy her, Grace is less glamorous and a bit more mummsie and provincial.
Characters’ stories are journeys and you don’t know the scripts when you start the season and make-up will evolve throughout. Smaller parts that get bigger throughout the series: the Josie Mardle character was originally a really small part which became really big. Sometimes, perhaps if you’ve not had much chance to work with that actor beforehand, you start with a design and it will evolve or remain, depending on how things work out.
WP: Women weren’t open about make-up in the 1900s. How do you create the discreet, subtle make-up look that still looks good under studio lights and for filming?
KD: The faces are very contrasty with lots of dark eyes and red lips and I worked with products including foundations from MAC Cosmetics, Chanel and Giorgio Armani, layering mineral powder on top to give skin a porcelain look.
I used a cheek stain, created soft, glossy lips and kept brows light, using powder to define them. In 1909 the feminine ideal was very natural — dark hair, a pale face and rosy cheeks. Colour cosmetics had yet to make their breakthrough, something that would not happen until after World War I.
I got a lot of support from brands like MAC. When I do shows like this, they’re so supportive. I mostly used powder, primer and clear mascara. With the younger actors, they have strong modern eyebrows and these can be a challenge. You have to work to lighten them to take away the sharp edges. I love Dr Paw Paw which I blend with lipstick as a lip balm with a hint of colour. With some characters they have a lipstick, but it’s more of a stain, which works really well.
We did a long make-up test on the second season, over two full days, as there are several different environments that feature in the show – shop floor, night club and daylight – and the make-up needed to work for all these.
WP: What modern brands do you use to create that old-fashioned look? What are your favourite products to use?
KD: MAC is definitely one of the most used, as well as Armani Luminous Silk and Chanel Perfection Lumiere bases, and also MAC Mineralise Skin Finish. Priming is so important when pores begin to show, though this is not the case with the very young actors. I was lucky to get a whole range of primers from MAC, especially Prep & Prime. Lancôme Hypnôse Mascara is another favourite. Blush is tailored – crème or powder – depending on the particular skin.
With the silent movie star we exaggerate the make-up more. The American lady in episode 9 (S2) is even more forward and it’s now 1919 and make-up coming more into the ‘20s. Lips were quite simple; two circles and smaller, more rounded. For eyes, in the socket line we use a MAC palette of greys and browns to shade, rather than highlight.
WP: Do the costumes influence each make-up look or do you tend to stick to each character and how they would look in every situation?
KD: We use costume, hair and make-up to show the social status of the characters. When the characters are trying to disguise their origins, we can take this a stage further. We tailor the make-up to the environment that the scene calls for.
WP: Hair plays an integral role in the show due to the elaborate up-dos. Which character’s hair takes the longest and how does it contribute to the overall look? Do you enjoy working with wigs and hair?
KD: I really love the wigs and the hair. It’s a really strong part of what I do and I enjoy the realism of what can be created.
I go through a long test at the beginning of each job – I get my trainees in and test on them different hair styles and to go through different hair shapes to see what will look good. For instance, when you have many extras, it really handy to have plenty of practice runs to create styles and shapes, and we take lots of pictures so we can recreate them quickly and easily. On a costume drama, the principles need to stand out immediately in the frame and the look and shape of the hair can assist with this.
Some actors have really strong ideas about how their characters would look and how their hair would be, especially with the facial hair on the men; Jeremy Piven was an example of this, as the King at the time had a very defined beard.
Lady Mae has the biggest updo, as the wealthy of the era famously wore hairpieces under their hats.
WP: What have you got coming up?
KD: With Mr Selfridge being a long job, you’re totally focused on it for an extended period and build up the designs in your head. At the moment, I’m doing more film projects which challenge you in a different way. Doing dailies means you’re required to take on whatever’s asked of you straight away and come out of your comfort zone. I’m doing The Great Fire of London now, I did a bit of Peaky Blinders, a bit of Frankenstein. I can see what all my talented colleagues are doing too, it’s a great way to learn and like going back to school.