While M.A.C. Pro is no stranger to holding beauty/fashion demonstrations across the globe, the company’s promotional team turned their attention to television for a recent event held at Toronto’s Queen-Richmond Centre West on June 17. Spotlighting the Canadian sci-fi drama Orphan Black, it featured the show’s make-up designer Stephen Lynch as he re-created a quartet of different looks from the series.
For the uninitiated, Orphan Black stars Emmy-winning actress Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning, a streetwise con artist who assumes the identity and occupation of her doppelgänger, police detective Beth Childs. Sarah soon discovers that not only are she and Beth genetically identical clones, but there are also numerous sister clones scattered across the globe.
A Canadian Screen Award-winner himself for his work on the series, Lynch arranged to show four of his looks, two already prepared and the other two made up live on stage. “The reason they asked me here,” he explains, “is I work from inside to outside on my characters. My greatest passion is working with actors and helping to create their looks, and figuring out how we can create those looks. I’m not afraid to break them down and mess them up a little bit, so that’s what I’m going to show you today. You’ll find some things to be heavier for television and HD than in fashion, but it’s a different approach to what we’re doing.”
First up is Sarah herself, or a M.A.C. model made up as Maslany’s trademark character. “Sarah is a bit of a grifter,” Lynch elaborates, “who does what is necessary to survive. Very early on, Tatiana and I decided that she probably doesn’t wash her face, and puts her make-up on with her fingers. I asked at one point if she wanted to be really brave and not use any foundation, and maybe have some pouches under her eyes.
“Beyond that, I make it as mucky as I can because I want it to be completely believable. She has her standby colors which are dark and stormy and messed up, so we all know this woman and absolutely nothing is precise. If the make-up began to run, that’s when she was in her happy place.”
For Lynch’s second Orphan Black character, he brings Maslany’s on-set acting double Kathryn Alexandre, who will often wear as many make-ups as the star. Alexandre is being made up as the character of Helena and comes to the stage wearing a bloodied wedding gown associated with a pivotal scene in Season Two. “What do we know about Helena?” Lynch asks rhetorically. “She’s Ukrainian-Russian, raised in a convent by violent nun types and caged like an animal, so we wanted to work from that supposition. She was trained as a killer, and has a religious fanaticism. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to do something feral? She’s been chased and abused, and a victim of the people who ruined her, so she’s a very damaged character.
“I’ve given her runny dark eyes and white skin, but we also went back to religious iconography, using colors of the Renaissance on her eyes because I don’t think people are born evil. She’s changed her hair color, so she has really long roots, because we realize she does it herself, so it’s horrible and damaged and broken as you’ll see when we put the wig on. We find out later that she and Sarah are basically from the same womb, so we wanted to make them opposites but find things that intersect.”
For Helena’s look, Lynch uses a variety of products from a mini-Skin Illustrator blood palette (for tiny lines on the eyelid) to a very old M.A.C. base that he insists is older than many of the people in the room. “Everyone has a product they can’t do without,” he claims, “and you can do anything with this eye shadow blush.”
In addition to roughing up the eyebrows and accentuating the tiny hairs on Maslany’s upper lip, Lynch also devised an unusual back tattoo for the character. “It was supposed to be a set of wings, but I said, ‘You can’t do that! Everybody has a tattoo of wings on their back and it’s boring now.’” [The demonstration is momentarily interrupted as an audience member stands up and lifts his shirt to reveal the very same tattoo. “That’s the ice-breaker I was looking for!” jokes Lynch]. “Anyway, I said, ‘What if she was into self-harm and was cutting herself?’ I took my niece who was a gofer at the time, did a set of wings on her but as scars and presented that to the producers who went for it.
“Again, Helena is a deeply unhappy and disturbed person so she’ll find a rusty razor blade or nail and keep opening it. That’s another example of what you can do through make-up to help create a character.”
Character number three is Alison, another model who arrives onstage already made up. “Alison is the most uptight housewife in Scarborough,” notes Lynch, “and an absolute control freak. She does not like the fact that she’s a clone, and she doesn’t even like to use the ‘C’ word. She wants to hide out in the suburbs, raise her adopted child, be with her husband and run for school board.
“This is reflected in her look, and it was Sandy [Sokolowski] our hairdresser who said, ‘Let’s do a ponytail, because it’s full control.’ I figured Alison went to the mall years ago maybe in high school, and put this palette of colors together, but when Sandy suggested the tight ponytail and perfect bangs, I thought, ‘Now I know who she is!’ So the hair gave her a back story. To finish her look, we do a little pop of blush, because again, it means she’s in control and even though this make-up is just a little bit too much of everything, it’s her safe place.”
Lynch’s final demonstration is on actor Jordan Gavaris, who plays Sarah’s half-foster brother Felix Dawkins. “He’s an artist, so I thought he would be a fun character, so when I was told, ‘Maybe no make-up for this character,’ I thought, ‘No way!’ We had to sneak it in every now and then until it was full-blown.”
It’s obvious from their onstage banter that Lynch and Gavaris get along very well. “We talked about this many times,” says the actor, “that’s what makes Stephen so fascinating as a make-up artist, is that make-up notoriously links to vanity, but Stephen approaches make-up from the Stanislavski approach, which is that the make-up is nothing if not in service of the character.”
Lynch’s demo is based on a make-up done on Gavaris in the most recent season. “Felix has an art opening with people coming from all over the world, so we wanted to do something we hadn’t done before. We’d already done hard lines and period looks, so this one was quite simple, a bit of a male/female androgynous take on a Kabuki make-up that we did by blending some colors, and it was good fun. I’m using M.A.C. Lipmix, which worked quite well. I also used a M.A.C. airbrush foundation on Jordan, which gave him a nice finish. The colors are really strong, which I found out when I tried them out on myself. So, those are our four Orphan Black looks.”
Does Lynch have any personal favorites among the characters he has created for the series? “For pure narcissism and fun, it would be Krystal, who is all Id. She’s sharper than she appears, but she’s a complete make-up, hair and fashion junkie, so that was really fun.
“For the psychological depth of a damaged character, it would be Helena, who had endless layers to her personality. And for sheer affection, it’s between Sarah and Alison, because Alison tries so bloody hard and things so often don’t go her way.
“They write to the humor in Alison who’s never boring, and when it’s Sarah, I feel I’m home, because we started with Sarah and she came together really easily. We all knew who she was immediately; she’s a scrapper and a survivor, and I love her deeply. Even though they are all Tatiana’s creations, I feel a certain ownership and a deep connection with them. I even dream about them as though they’re real people.”
For details on the Rachel and Alison looks from Orphan Black, see our Beauty Breakdown.