“We are just trying to do this very truthful, authentic tightrope walk between the actor and the character they’re playing,” declares makeup supervisor Cate Hall about the challenges of bringing well-known public figures to life onscreen in an authentic and believable way. Netflix’s flagship drama. “the last thing we want is to do something that feels like parody or is hokey,” she says. Watch our exclusive video interview with Hall above.
Netflix’s flagship drama “The Crown” was created by Oscar, Emmy and Tony-nominated writer Peter Morgan. The series’ current cast debuted in 2019 for its third season, with Oscar winner Olivia Colman replacing Emmy winner Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, Tobias Menzies stepping in for Matt Smith as Prince Phillip, Helena Bonham Carter replacing Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, and a raft of new characters joining the fold like Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles and Erin Doherty as Princess Anne.
After three seasons in which “The Crown” focused on the earlier years of the Queen’s reign as monarch, the series returned late last year as the beloved royal family continued to evolve and age over time. Season 4 premiered to rapturous reviews stateside (it got an impressive 97% “certified fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes), introducing relative newcomer Emma Corrin as Princess Diana and previous Emmy and SAG Award winner Gillian Anderson as UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, both of whom recently dominated (along with the show itself and co-star O’Connor) at the recent Golden Globes, SAGs and Critics Choice Awards.
This season, Hall and her team were tasked with recreating the iconic looks of real-life personalities that the show’s audience is so intrinsically familiar with. Indeed, Hall and her team are very much aware that a part of the series’ success depends on each character looking as flawless and real as possible because of entrenched expectations about what they are supposed to look like.
Anticipation was so high for Princess Diana’s introduction on the show, and transforming Corrin into Diana in her earlier years was a real highlight for the Emmy nominee. “We had in mind that we had this huge journey to take the character on through the season. The wonderful thing, when they cast Emma Corrin, was it didn’t feel to me like we were asking the audience to make an enormous leap psychologically,” she explains. “With Emma, she had this capacity to play this vulnerable, very young ingenue and we just felt like it was our job to really enhance that, so we kept everything in the early stages as natural as possible.”
“As the season progressed, we used another two sets of wigs, which we would progressively dye and highlight more and more and we would style them and make them bigger and then we would use the beauty makeup trends of the eighties just to angle the makeup and use the frosting and pigment and powder to create a kind of mask, which I think is what Diana did,” she explains. “To create this image that felt very deliberate and media savvy so that by the end, what we see is someone that has grown up in the public eye and is presenting herself quite deliberately, whereas at the beginning we wanted it to look very un-self conscious and very natural.”
Apart from recreating Diana, and the rest of the Royal Family who have aged and evolved over the years, Hall’s other main challenge was recreating the infamous former PM Margaret Thatcher, played by Anderson. “With Gillian, I think people thought we were using prosthetics, which we definitely weren’t. It was a very light touch with her makeup,” she reveals. “To us it felt we had quite a lot to live up to and we had to do her justice. For me, my theory is always that if we can establish an outline that people can recognize, and then the actor is creating this performance and this voice, then our job for everything in the middle is just not to bring attention to it, so ideally you can just forget and get an audience to forget they’re watching dramatic fiction and just really immerse themselves.”
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