Louise Coles (‘The Great’ makeup and hair supervisor): ‘There is so much scope to create something completely unique’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“We all collaborated so well in season 1, but when we came into season 2, we knew what the world was, we’d set the tone and then we could push it even further, because we knew it worked,” makeup and hair supervisor Louise Coles declares says about upping the ante when bringing the second season of “The Great” to life. “There is so much scope to create something completely unique, which is great with period drama because often you’re locked into the period,” she explains. “We ground ourselves in the history but we’re able to tear away at that and come up with something different, so I think we all push that tone even further.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

“The Great” returned for an even more outrageous second season late last year to virtually unanimous “huzzahs” from critics, scoring a 100% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Elle Fanning stars as the titular Catherine the Great in the genre-bending Russian royalty satire, who after initiating a coup against husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult) at the end of season 1, embarks on the show’s sophomore season pregnant with their child, while dealing with a royal court in disarray, a looming war with the Ottomans and a visit from her serpent-tongued mother Joanna, played by Emmy winner Gillian Anderson.

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The series is beloved for its witty, razor-sharp and hilariously profane dialogue, the performances of its excellent cast, and its lavish production values. After earning a pair of Emmy nominations for its first season, including one for series creator and writer Tony McNamara, it has unsurprisingly become a regular on the TV awards circuit, with McNamara scoring consecutive wins for Best Episodic Comedy last year and earlier this year, and Fanning scoring a Best Comedy Series Actress nomination at this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards coupled with the cast’s nomination for Best Comedy Series Ensemble.

The show is funnier than its madcap first season, as McNamara and his team push the envelope further, particularly among the ensemble cast including genius creations like the often inebriated General Velementov (Douglas Hodge), quirky Aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow), highly strung Archbishop (Adam Godley) and close confidantes Grigor (Gwilym Lee), Orlov (Sacha Dawan) and Marial (Phoebe Fox).

Coles is immensely proud of her entire team in the makeup and hair department, particularly for pushing the envelope and matching the confidence and flair that McNamara and her colleagues in other departments brought to the table, often against the odds. “It’s so fun and we shoot it really fast paced in this slightly falling apart studio in East London; it’s not really the location you’d expect us to be doing all of that in. It’s amazing what we’re creating out of that place,” she smiles. “We have a short amount of time and in a way, some of the best ideas come out of that kind of pressure. We just have to pull things together, and because we were filming in the pandemic, I’m particularly proud of our team because we were making things from scratch, we made all the accessories and the hair from scratch.”

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