March 22nd, 2016
He first came to our attention for his work with Imelda Staunton in the multi award-winning production of Gypsy in London’s West End, yet Henrik Torp Hansen is a famous face in his native Denmark, with a string of TV, film and theatre smashes beneath his belt before he relocated to London. Warpaint finds out how he’s settling in.
WP: How does a boy from Denmark whose Imdb credits seem to be full of film and TV – and lots of comedy – end up in London’s West End with Imelda Staunton?
HH: I needed new challenges, and I spoke to a friend of mine who was living in London who felt that they had reached their goals too quickly in Denmark and I realised that it had happened to me too – I’d done all the big TV shows and theatre productions, and I thought that there wasn’t anything more I could do. Had I really done everything by the age of 34? This is the kind of business where you are never really done; you can’t rest on your success.
The industry in Denmark, while it has all the elements of the UK and US, is much smaller – we’ve got quite a lot of fashion and TV, and the thing with theatre over there is that it doesn’t run like over here. An eight month run is a very long one so that means that you can be on all of these big show. We buy all the productions from over here so they’re on the same scale – it’s literally a transfer. Also I think that as the recession hit Demark, I needed to prove that I got the work because I was good and not because of who I was married to [Henrik’s ex-husband is a h ousehold name in Denmark] when times are hard, rumours started that I got the work because I was married to this guy. I needed to prove to myself, as much as to anyone else, that I’m getting jobs because I know what I’m doing. I needed to define my business and who I am – selling yourself in a different language is tough – I wanted to start with a clean slate and make new contacts. I’d run masterclasses in Denmark to help young make-up artists to start out and now I needed to practice this for myself.
So I end up over here – I actually wanted to go even further originally: to the US – so this move was maybe stepping stone to that in my mind. Here is not so far from home and I’m quite a family guy really, and we’re all European. You always know somebody from London so you’re never alone, and you can pop home for the weekend. America is too far for that. I now think I’ve actually got the mentality for the UK and perhaps not the American mentality. It’s a good hub here to bounce to other destinations – to Paris for instance – and my friends say that they see me much more than when I lived in Denmark.
WP: How long have you been in London?
HH: Five to six years, although I had a gap for six to eight months where I went back to Denmark, and I do go back very regularly for work as it’s only 90 minutes away. The funny thing is that in London they find me interesting because I work in Denmark, and in Denmark they find me interesting because I live in London. That’s what this business is about – find yourself something that makes you different. Carving a niche for yourself.
WP: How did you start? What’s your background in terms of training?
HH: I started by co-incidence. I trained and worked originally as a dancer and at that time musical theatre wasn’t that popular in Denmark and realised that I wouldn’t be able to get the jobs that I wanted because I’m not average height – and they always want guys of average height so they all match in a line – so I wanted to find something else that I could do. A friend of mine had a hair salon and suggested that I came and trained with him and the thing is that hairdresser education in Denmark takes four years, mixed between attending college for 20 hours a week and working in a salon for the rest, so I did that and in my final year he suggested that I do make-up too and combine it with work experience in a TV studio, but the studio experience fell through and I had to make my own, so I used connections to get in with the wiggies at the theatre and got my experience that way. I was in the salon during the day and going to the theatre in the evenings. It was great training.
Make-up wise I’m self-educated and from watching my colleagues and just doing it on the job. I attend masterclasses in London and it’s very interesting to hear people describing how and why we do things. That’s something that comes with age.
Scandinavian style is known as stylish yet paired back, and that’s how I described my make-up: quite simple construction, not too many colours and does the job.
WP: Do you have a favourite genre to work in – film, TV or theatre?
HH: I’m not sure I have a favourite; it’s a bit like the grass is greener; when I’m doing theatre, I want a bit of television; when I’m in television, I miss theatre. I like the idea with theatre that you can’t redo it – it’s got to be perfect now – and I like with TV/film that you can get into the detail of it more. I like to combine the two. 70% of your job is to be a therapist, especially in theatre.
WP: Is HD a good challenge, especially now theatre is moving more to recording for broadcast?
HH: Because I work across both broadcast and theatre, I don’t really think about it, and I can see a lot of colleagues are the same. HD is unforgiving and means you can’t let things slip through.
WP: How did your relationship with Imelda begin? Did you work with her at Chichester or on transfer?
HH: I met her at The Olivier’s [Awards] when she was hosting it for the first time and I got signed up for her. We got on a like a house on fire and she liked what I was doing and she’s been using me ever since for press nights and theatre productions. She’s very sweet to work with and very professional, which I like; wanting to make sure that the tones are correct for the production, and I like that because it challenges me. Are the reds blueish or orangeish? Both of the productions [that I worked on with her] are revivals and yet really up-to-date. She puts everything in to it and is suffering for it – she’s wearing the original shoes – and she expects the same from all of us which I like. One of the big differences between here and Denmark is that over there they want three months prep before you go on and once you start in a job, they can’t kick you out: in London if you’re not good enough, you’re not back tomorrow. I really do like that, it keeps you on your toes. Even the stars in the West End, they have to audition for their roles each year and you have to be nice to your dresser because next year the roles might have changed.
WP: Kit saviours – every artist has them. What are yours?
HH: Lustre Drops from MAC: I need those for my airbrush and also for highlight. Elnett – the good old fashioned – I haven’t found anything else that’s as light and effective and yet you can brush it out. Works on both synthetic and own hair, you can wash it off with no problems. Can’t live without that. My straighteners too; I can curl, wave, I can do everything with them.
WP: Biggest challenges in your career – what are they and how did you overcome them?
HH: That would probably be when I first moved to London and I for my very first job I worked at the strip club – The Windmill [in Soho]. You never get taught in stripper make-up. It’s a different world, I had to google what it was. There are lots of videos on YouTube. Drag make-up is now mainstream. All the girls out on the town on a Friday night at wearing drag makeup with the big lashes. Shows like Priscilla and Kinky Boots have made it well known.
Stripper make-up was quite demanding – I thought I knew everything and I didn’t – I had to do lots of homework on this. While I was working on it, burlesque was coming in and becoming big, so the strippers were changing theirs a little and we sort of met half way. It’s a different comfort zone – strippers felt dressed in just their heels and would come in for their make-up like that – and I thought, “Woowh,” and I had to do make-up on their bodies too.
WP: What would we do without YouTube?
HH: For reference material is great, but it’s a bit dangerous because a lot of people think they can sit at home and have no training, and they start their own channels. They don’t get the chance to work on skin – and you need to do that – to know how it works and what products perform like on it.
WP: What products have you come across in the UK – any new ones or just different availability?
HH: The variety is bigger. The one thing I have found that’s totally different is haemorrhoid cream, which I use to tighten the skin around the eyes – I send it back to my friends in Denmark! I also like that I can buy travel sizes of hair products for my kit, I love to minimise my kit. I love that. Are UK consumers here more reactive? Do we talk more on social media? Denmark is tiny – only 6 million people and brands don’t listen as much as they do over here.
WP: What’s your next challenge?
HH: After filming in Denmark over Christmas, I’m back here to do Mamma Mia for a maternity cover, then I want to do more TV.
WP: Who are your dream actors to work with?
HH: Joan Collins, Sharon Osbourne – I love her look, David Beckham – interesting character who I think is holding back, Victoria [Beckham] – I like her too, she got my respect at the Royal Wedding when she came 8 and a half months pregnant in 6 inch heels.
WP: What’s been your favourite job in London?
HH: Priscilla and The Olivier Awards which I’ve done for the last 5 years. But every job is a good job because I’m doing what I like. I am living what I was dreaming about, doing a job that I love, flying every week with my job – shut up, Henrik, and enjoy it.
WP: Advice for young muas?
HH: Enjoy it every minute – it’s not like a normal career, you don’t know when your career peaks.