“Saturday Night Live” makeup artist Louie Zakarian certainly had his hands full this season, with the many demands of an election year on top of the new COVID safety protocols. The makeup department head had to adjust to new procedures behind the scenes, including makeup artists only being allowed to approach the cast and hosts one at a time. Plus, with so many politicians being parodied this season, it was a struggle to get cast members out of makeup during a two-minute commercial break for them to play a contemporary character in the next sketch. “It was like doing makeup with one hand tied behind our backs, really,” says Zakarian in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. Watch the full chat above.
One of Zakarian’s most notable creations this season was in transforming Jim Carrey into Joe Biden. “I built a set of dentures, some prosthetics for him, made him bald every day and then popped on that wig and some eyebrows,” he explains. “I actually used to block out his own eyebrows to make him look more like Biden because Biden has almost no eyebrows.” The makeup artist felt the pressure to get it right heading into the final weeks before the 2020 election. While it was “nerve-wracking” for Zakarian heading into the season, he notes that Carrey was fully game for whatever they put on him and even came to the table with his own ideas.
Typically, Zakarian would do a live cast on all the cast members and hosts to get a mold of their faces. But with new protocols in place, the makeup artist found a way to keep a distance while still getting what he needed by using a 3D scanner and printer. The process allows the makeup artist and talent to keep a safe distance from each other. “It’s something I think I’m going to keep going from now on,” reveals Zakarian. “A lot of actors don’t want to sit there and have all the alginate and silicone gooped on their face and it’s a process that I can do in 10 minutes. they’re in, they’re out, no muss, no fuss, and then I’ve got their face to do whatever we need to do.”
Zakarian has been with “Saturday Night Live” since the ’90s, winning eight Emmys over the course of his career. He was nominated again this year for the episode hosted by Elon Musk, which features all kinds of makeup from a Gen-Z sketch to Kyle Mooney as Baby Yoda. “I’ve been here for a long time, and I still get a kick out of doing the show,” he admits. “Every week is always a fun week.”
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