When they started working on “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” makeup department head Robin Beauchesne and prosthetics designer Justin Raleigh both found themselves having to look up a lot of information. “A lot of research goes into it, watching a lot of documentaries, talking within the department and figuring out all the different ways that we can do it and also talking to the actors and seeing how they feel and how far they want to go,” Beauchesne tells Gold Derby during our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above).
Raleigh emphasized that they also needed to be mindful of how long it would take to get in and out of the makeup, especially for someone like Sarah Paulson. “She was in that makeup well over a hundred times, so we had to make sure that this was a very efficient process from prosthetics to hair to Robin. It was really a dance between the three teams to kind of put this all together.”
“Impeachment: American Crime Story,” which can currently be streamed on FX on Hulu, explores the affair between President Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) and White House intern Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), how Linda Tripp (Paulson) taped conversations between her and Lewinsky when they worked at the Pentagon and Ken Starr’s investigation that led to the titular punishment. The series also stars Edie Falco (Hillary Clinton), Judith Light (Susan Carpenter-McMillan), Annaleigh Ashford (Paula Jones), Billy Eichner (Matt Drudge) and Fred Melamed (William Ginsburg).
Beauchesne has collected three Emmys for her makeup work over her career: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in 1998, “Feud: Bette and Joan” in 2017 and “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” in 2018. Raleigh won an Emmy for his prosthetic work on “American Horror Story: Freak Show” in 2015 and earlier this year was part of the team that picked up the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”
Raleigh views developing prosthetics for people playing real-life characters as much more challenging than doing it for original characters, but also tries to achieve the look with as few prosthetics as possible. “I’m not going to make you look exactly like that person, even if you’re already very close. The best that we can create is a very good approximation and likeness of that person, but it’s an amalgamation of whoever the actor is and the person that we’re trying to recreate.” Beauchesne echoes that view. “It’s the little subtleties like an eyebrow change on Judith Light and on Edie Falco we used lifts around the eyes. We rounded out the eyes up around the top so that she had more of a rounder eye like Hillary.”
Both agree that turning Paulson into Tripp was the toughest of the character transformations. On Beauchesne’s end it required a lot of aligning with the prosthetics she was wearing. “We also did a lot of highlights around the eyes and around the eyebrow bone to give her more of an appearance that she was heavier. There was a lot of highlight and shadow and character makeup that tied into getting her into character.” With the prosthetics, Raleigh initially had Paulson wearing a lot more than what ended up on screen. “We had full cheeks, full neck, chin and nose. That all got whittled down over four or five tests down to a nose and a neck. We re-sculpted the neck and then re-sculpted the nose mostly because her glasses hit very specific areas. Once we had her established, she was pretty smooth sailing at that point.”
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