Make-up artist Greg T. Moon has his aces-high on set.
With its sweeping shots of Montana mountain vistas, majestic cattle ranches and vast open plains, it’s easy to think of the Paramount Network series Yellowstone as a Western. But make-up department head Greg T. Moon sees it as far more than that.
“The thing about Yellowstone is that it covers a lot of genres,” observes Moon about the series created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson. “There’s a little bit of art. There’s a little bit of comedy. There’s film noir. There’s the Western. It’s amazing what they can cover in an episode.”
At the center of the action is the Dutton family, owners of the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the United States. Though the land had been theirs for generations, it is under siege from all sides. Land developers want to replace the cattle with condos. The adjacent Native American reservation contests that the land rightfully belongs to the tribe. Gas and lumber interests are vying for the property’s natural resources.
But the Duttons are fighters and willing to do anything to protect their ranch. Family head John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is a throwback to the cowboys of old and most at home riding his horse. Older son Jamie (Wes Bentley) is an ambitious attorney accustomed to fighting his battles in a suit. Daughter Beth (Kelly Reilly) is a financial wizard who gains the upper hand through her ruthless business tactics. Younger son Kayce is most like his dad, but his choice to marry a Native American woman and live on the reservation has put him in the middle of the conflict between John and the tribe.
In Season One alone, Moon and his crew, which includes keys Shannon Kelsey Hokama and Bern Kubiak, effects artist Abigail Steele and Costner’s personal Mario Michisanti, pivoted from dusty trails to high-powered corporate offices while taking on bar fights, car wrecks, branding scars, burns from a meth lab explosion and a lynching. But no matter where the action takes the make-up crew, the priority never changes.
“My main goal on this show is to make sure it looks real,” says Moon. “We’ve got a wide range of ethnicities and class distinctions. And through it all, each of these looks has to fit. It shouldn’t stand out as make-up. It should look everyday. If someone’s gotten in a fight they should look like they’ve gotten in a fight. If they are supposed to be pretty, they should look pretty. And that’s been the challenge … to make sure that each character fits the part.”
But if anyone is up for the challenge, it’s Moon. A 30-year veteran of film and TV, his credits run the gamut from drama (Blood & Oil) and action (John Carter), to comedy (Brigsby Bear) and horror (Hereditary). This diverse background has proven invaluable when addressing the challenges the series presents.
Tricks of the Trade
“It seems like a lot of the different little looks on different films I’ve worked on in the past come into play,” continues Moon. “I’ve been able to tap into those things to come up with the looks for Yellowstone. And the products that we have now are so much further along than what we had, say, 20, 30 years ago, so it’s easier to get these natural looks.”
One of Moon’s favorite make-up tricks can’t be found on a shelf. It’s a concoction that colleague Lindey L. Crow introduced him to during the filming of The Testament of One Fold and One Shepherd. Moon swears it’s the best way he’s found to give his actors that dusty trail look.
“We call it the Lindey-Mix. It almost works as a bronzer, but it also works as a dirt,” explains Moon. “We were on an IMAX film and we were having some problems with the dirt coming off on the wardrobes. Lindey came up with this mix that made the dirt stay on the skin. It works well on the arms. It works well on the neck. I keep telling Lindey she ought to sell this stuff. It’s good stuff. That’s the fun thing about being a make-up artist. You run up against these challenges from time to time and you have to come up with something that has to work.”
It’s Who You Know
It was co-creator Sheridan who brought Moon on to Yellowstone. Moon was working on the horror film Hereditary in Utah when he ran into Sheridan one day. Moon had heard about Yellowstone and didn’t hesitate when asked if he were available—even though he had another offer at the time. Moon had worked with Sheridan on the film Wind River and sensed Yellowstone would be something special. Moon said that Sheridan, who, in addition to writing the scripts with Linson, is directing the majority of the episodes and approaches the series with the mindset of a feature film.
“Taylor was hands-on on everything. He was an actor before and he’s a very visual man,” says Moon. “He definitely has in his mind what he wants these characters to look like. It was nice that if I had questions, I was able to go to Taylor and ask how he saw it.”
As an example, Moon cites a scene that called for Danny Huston’s character Dan Jenkins, a land developer with aspirations of building on the Dutton ranch, to get punched out in a bar fight. “So, I did a black eye on him,” says Moon. “We’re on set and Taylor came over to me and said, ‘I want that to be darker.’ ‘Are you sure?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘OK! Make it darker.’ And it actually read really nice that way.”
But Moon says that the Beth Dutton character is the most fun to make up. On the surface, she’s a sophisticated, high-powered businesswoman. But she also has a fragile side. And that often leads to Beth trying to escape life through alcohol or sex.
“She goes through so many emotional rides,” says Moon, adding that Reilly really collaborated on the look. “She wants a put-together business look when she needs to be businesslike. She wants to let go just a little bit when she’s around the guys. And then there are time when she gets herself hammered and she’s got to look like she’s had a few too many.”
To get Beth’s executive look, Moon initially used M.A.C. Cosmetics’ Blackberry and Wedge eye shadows. At the start of second-season filming, he switched to Anastasia Beverly Hills’ Norvina Palette. “Kelly wanted a little of the violets, the browns, that smoky look on her eyes,” he says. “A little bit on the cheek. Not a whole lot on the lips. She loves that palette.”
Moon uses Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture Foundation on most of the female characters. He likes the way it works in the dry climates of Montana and Utah where the series shoots. For the men, he goes with the Sensai Bronzing Gel, believing it gives them more of an outdoor look.
But Moon doesn’t like to limit himself. His kit is filled with a range of products from Christian Dior, M.A.C. Cosmetics and Make Up For Ever. “We’re on location quite a bit on this show,” he says. “The nice thing with make-up these days is that the extreme weather doesn’t affect it. It helps protect the actors. But we have to make sure that when we’re out on really sunny days, they also have sunscreen on.”
With the second season of Yellowstone just starting to air, Moon is tight-lipped about what to expect as the saga of the Dutton family continues. “I’m afraid if I say anything about the make-up, it will give it away,” he says. “It starts out a little slow and then it’s like jumping on a roller coaster and taking off. Just fasten your seat belts for Season Two. Abigail (Steele) was a lot busier. We’re getting ready to start Season Three and she’s going to be heavily involved there as well.”
The second season of Yellowstone began June 19 on the Paramount Network.